July-August -- 2020
Bp. Pat Bell, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon and Bp. Laurie Caesar, Lutheran Bishop of the Synod of Oregon, have asked that no in-person worship services be offered at this time. Below are excerpts from a letter from Bp. Pat to the Diocese and excerpts from an email to me from Bp. Laurie.
From Bp. Pat: Good Day Dear People of Eastern Oregon: I greet you in the peace and grace of the Loving, Liberating, Life-Giving God. My daily prayers for you all during these last few months have been conjoined with deep gratitude for your forbearance, your fortitude, and your attention to one another during this extraordinary time…. In this time of upheaval, it is so easy to put aside the concerns and awareness of the ongoing threat from the COVID 19 pandemic. I want to strongly encourage us not to forget that at least a thousand of our neighbors are dying daily even yet and that in the midst of some very positive signs of relief in places, there also are sobering realities in other spots where the ravage of the disease is rampant. The State of Oregon is beginning to implement a cautious process of permission to regather people, even churches, and I know that some of you are anxious to see us participate in this. I have given this much thought and have met with the Standing Committee this week to seek their counsel on how soon we should move toward opening up our churches to physical gatherings…With the consent of our Standing Committee, I have come to the conclusion that we will not open our churches until after Labor Day this September, looking to September 13 at the earliest.
…With the awareness that beginning with the Fourth of July weekend on through summer, there will be a significant increase of travel throughout Eastern Oregon of tourists, of migrant farmworkers (who, by the way, are already experiencing an alarming uptick in infections and deserve our support in communities where they are providing invaluable service) and of those who will be participating in protests. We just cannot predict what impact all of this will have on our communities, but our primary concern must be the welfare of our people, especially considering the age and vulnerability of so many of our folk, both lay, and clergy. …I will continue to monitor the situation as we move through the summer and will keep you advised of any possible alteration of that September date, whether we can open up earlier or must extend it further.
From Bp. Laurie: My strong recommendation is that no in-person services be held until we see a consistent decrease in the spread of the virus. Swells and upticks and even hot spots abound. All of the churches in Multnomah County are strictly on-line for the foreseeable future. A few have said they will remain so until a vaccine or herd immunity will allow EVERY member to return. Some congregations outside the metro area are resuming, usually outside in parking lots with, of course, no communion, no singing and with face masks on, etc. Please receive my strong recommendation that you refrain from worshipping in person for now. The unfortunate truth of my experience is that reopening in any way often appeals to our oldest elders and others who will be hit the hardest should the coronavirus strike.
I am listening to my Bishops. Sunriver is filled with visitors. The bike paths are my witness. Holy Trinity is offering two weekly masses of 50 people each, Saturday evening at 5:30 and Sunday morning at 8. They have no plans to clean the sanctuary after their services until the following Thursday evening.
I am left with the following questions:
♦ How would we have the sanctuary, chairs, and bathrooms, cleaned in a satisfactory way to hold worship on Sundays safely? What time?
♦ How does one choose the 50 people to worship? By email registration? If multiple services are to be held, how do we clean the sanctuary after each service?
♦ What will worship look like? How will it feel following COVID-19 rules for safety?
Fifty members come in masked and single file.
They sit six feet apart.
No choir, no handbells, unless small numbers of musicians distance six feet apart and 16 feet from the front row of chairs.
No parish singing.
No creeds or prayers said together.
No Holy Communion.
No passing of the peace.
No coffee hour.
Following the Dismissal, the 50 members depart, six feet apart, and in a single file.
♦ This does not sound like church to me!
I will honor the wisdom of both my Bishops and continue to offer worship as we have been doing. We will tape on Saturday and the service will be on the web site by Sunday morning. If there is a sharp decrease in COVID-19 cases over an extended length of time, we can certainly revisit the possibility of in-person worship,
Meanwhile, I will continue to pray for our nation, our State, Sunriver, SCF, and the well-being of each and every one of you.