[Episcopal News Service] In addition to its continuing news coverage of major developments in The Episcopal Church’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to contain the virus, Episcopal News Service is compiling various updates from congregations and ministries across the church. If you have a news item, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Updates will be added to the top of this page. Full ENS coverage of the church’s response to the new coronavirus can be found here.
Friday, May 22
COVID-19 patient thanks Fort Worth priest whose blood donation may have saved his life
A Fort Worth, Texas, priest who was the first documented case of COVID-19 in his county got to meet another COVID-19 patient whose life he may have saved by donating his blood.
The Rev. Robert Pace, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, spent three days in the hospital and two weeks in quarantine at home in March. After he recovered from the virus, he donated his blood plasma, which contains antibodies that can fight COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration is approving (on a case-by-case basis) the use of blood plasma from people who have recovered from the virus as a treatment for patients currently suffering from it.
Pace was one of the first COVID-19 plasma donors in Texas, KDFW-TV reported, and his plasma was used to treat Jose Martinez, a healthy 42-year-old who had become critically ill after contracting the virus. According to KDFW, Martinez had been in the hospital for 21 days — and on a ventilator for 11 — when doctors administered the plasma treatment, which dramatically improved his condition. Martinez was discharged from the hospital a week later.
On May 20, Martinez and his family met and thanked Pace in the hospital chapel’s garden, presenting him with a statue of St. Michael the Archangel.
“I’m just so honored and overjoyed to meet Jose and see him standing here and meet his family,” said Pace, adding that he is continuing to donate plasma and encouraging anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 to do the same.
“You can save a life by just sitting down and giving your plasma,” Pace told KDFW.
Wednesday, May 20
Presiding Bishop congratulates Seminary of the Southwest graduates in online ceremony
Graduations have continued during the coronavirus pandemic, but not in the traditional way. The Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, held its graduation on May 20 through a livestream, which included video remarks from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
“You are beginning or continuing ministry following in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth in a world such as this, in such a time as this,” Curry said, speaking for about five minutes. “I want to congratulate you for having the courage to do it. I want to thank you for having the faith to do it.”
Texas Bishop Andrew Doyle also appeared on the livestream to congratulate the new graduates, and Bishop Suffragan Kathryn Ryan was awarded an honorary degree by the Episcopal seminary. The Very Rev. Migelina Howell, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut, was the commencement speaker.
“This seminary has trained you precisely to thrive in a rapidly changing world and to be adaptive and nimble, so today we celebrate,” Howell said.
You can watch the full ceremony here.
Friday, May 15
Georgia priest donates plasma to help others after recovering from COVID-19
Contracting the coronavirus has allowed the Rev. Erwin Veale to help other COVID-19 patients like him. After recovering from his infection, Veale, a hospital chaplain in Augusta, Georgia, volunteered to donate plasma to be used in treatments.
“If there’s something I can do that might help, I wanted to do that,” Veale told the Augusta Chronicle, which caught up to him May 13 while he was donating plasma at Shepheard Community Blood Center.
In addition to his chaplain work at University Hospital, Veale also serves as a priest associate at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, according to the Diocese of Georgia.
Wednesday, May 13
Grace Cathedral will host memorial evensong for recently deceased
Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California, will hold a livestream memorial evensong service on May 17 for all those who have died since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The service will take place on Facebook Live at 4 p.m. Pacific time.
“While the pandemic limits our ability to hold funerals, this service will a hold a space for grief and loss, as well as Christian hope of new life,” the cathedral wrote.
Tuesday, May 12
Priest envisions Gospel of John if Jesus’ words were ‘live and over the internet’
Getting sick of using Zoom for most of your face-to-face human interaction? Jesus agrees with you. At least that’s the opinion of the Jesus in the Gospel of John as updated for the coronavirus pandemic by the Rev. Julie Hoplamazian, associate rector at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan, New York.
“I was banging my head against the wall trying to come up with a positive, inspiring message for the congregation,” Hoplamazian told ENS. When the lectionary offered her “dwelling places,” she began to think “Zoom rooms.” What resulted was a short video that served not only an effective piece of clerical procrastination but also a humorous etiquette lesson for gathering online.
“I wrote it all in one sitting. Maybe quarantine is getting to me,” she said.
Monday, May 11
Convocation hosts webinar with former English health official
The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe will hold an informational event on COVID-19 with a European focus called “COVID, Community and a Changed Church: A Conversation with the Rev. Professor Gina Radford.”
Radford is the former deputy chief medical officer for England. She led the U.K.’s efforts to deal with Ebola and helped establish the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. She stepped down from this position in 2019, having been ordained a priest in 2016. She now serves two small parishes in the Diocese of Exeter.
The convocation will host a Zoom-based forum with her on May 13 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. It will go for an hour. Bishop Mark Edington will ask her about
— her path in bivocational ministry
— her views on how churches should approach reopening, and what best practices would look like
— her sense of what this moment will mean for the future of God’s call to the church in mission
Wednesday, May 6
Episcopalians are invited to attend a national interfaith online prayer service
The interfaith alliance Religions For Peace USA, of which The Episcopal Church is a member, is holding a National Interfaith Prayer Service for Healing and Hope via Zoom and Facebook Live on May 7, and all are invited to participate.
The service will include prayers for all those affected by COVID-19 and readings of sacred texts, including one from Rushad Thomas of The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. It will start at 2 p.m. Eastern time.
Monday, May 4
National Cathedral organist celebrates Star Wars Day with special performance
Over the past decade, May 4 has become an unofficial holiday celebrating all things “Star Wars” (as in “May the Fourth be with you”). Washington National Cathedral already has a connection to the “Star Wars” series in the form of a Darth Vader gargoyle, but this year, one of its organists celebrated Star Wars Day with a performance of a theme from the original 1977 movie.
George Fergus, assistant organist and associate director of music, played John Williams’ “Throne Room” theme (arranged by Jason Sherlock) on the cathedral’s 10,000-pipe organ as part of its online music program.
“Even to this day, when I watch a ‘Star Wars’ movie, I’m bowled over by the music of John Williams that accompanies these epic, vast space sequences,” Fergus said.
Friday, May 1
Virginia church hosts pandemic-themed online art and poetry exhibition
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia, invited recruited dozens of artists and poets to create new works on the theme of pandemic for an online exhibition on the church’s website. Participants were given selections from a list of 17 words, such as “beauty,” “lockdown,” “renewal,” “spirit” and “touch,” and asked to create artworks or poems using the words as inspiration.
“This online exhibition is intended to get us thinking about and discussing the stories we tell through our visual art and poetry, not only the paradoxes and ambiguities of our lives at this moment but also what ways and how we might reshape our futures,” the church said in an online introduction to the exhibition.
You can access the works collected in the exhibition here.
Thursday, April 30
Got the pandemic blues? Bishop’s humorous videos are must-see relief
Let us state for the record that the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious global health crisis, the likes of which few of us have ever seen. With more than 3 million cases confirmed worldwide, at least 200,000 have died.
At the same time, some laughter now and then might make it a bit easier for all of us to live through this crisis and the disruptions to normal life it has caused. For that, Western North Carolina Bishop José McLoughlin is up to the task.
Introducing “Quarantine with Bishop José.”
Episode three of the video series landed on the diocese’s YouTube page on April 26, and it has been viewed more than 3,000 times in its first week. McLoughlin stars alone in the video — because social distancing. Throughout the three-minute video, he shows off his sense of humor in scenes that range from unsurprisingly affirmative conversations with the bobbleheads on his desk to a show-stopping Billy Idol dance number. (You just have to see it to believe it.)
Wednesday, April 29
Applying the Way of Love to a pandemic-ravaged world
The Episcopal Church has released companion materials along with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s April 29 Word to the Church, highlighting how the Way of Love can provide guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new materials include a look at the Way of Love through the lens of COVID-19 and a selection of prayers for the various circumstances Episcopalians may find themselves in during this time.
“In moments like this, we need God more than ever,” said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care. “And in the Way of Love, we have a clear pathway for growing our relationship with God and each other.”
Thursday, April 23
Michigan church hosts webinar with lieutenant governor, state representative and bishop
What will our communities look like in the aftermath of the pandemic and how can churches prepare for that? Those were some of the questions addressed in a webinar hosted by Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on April 22. In addition to the Rev. William Danaher Jr., the church’s rector, the discussion group included Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, State Rep. Mari Manoogian, Bishop Bonnie Perry of the Diocese of Michigan, and the Rev. Charles Christian Adams, pastor of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.
The discussion also touched on on how churches and governments can respond to the racial disparities that have emerged in the pandemic; data collected so far indicates that African Americans are being disproportionately affected by the virus.
“I am extraordinarily grateful to Rep. Manoogian and Lt. Gov. Gilchrist for participating in this important webinar,” Danaher said in a press release. “I am also grateful that Rev. Adams and Bishop Perry can join us so we can explore the ways that religious and governmental leaders can work together to respond to the COVID-19 virus not only here in Metro Detroit, but throughout our nation.”
Tuesday, April 21
Episcopal school in Hawaii makes protective equipment using 3-D printers
While classes have been canceled at ‘Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii, the largest Episcopal school in the United States, there’s still a flurry of activity in the school’s 3-D printer studio. At the request of Hawaii Pacific Health, the K-12 school has produced thousands of face shields for doctors, nurses and other essential workers. The masks are already being used by hospitals, fire departments and police departments in Hawaii.
“We have this amazing design team and laser cutters. We have 3-D printers,” said Taylor Wong, a technology teacher at the school. “When we have the resources and are able to do stuff like this, it’s our responsibility.”
Friday, April 17
Priest’s viral rap video reminds Rhode Islanders to practice physical distancing
How do you keep your congregation connected, entertained and informed during the COVID-19 pandemic? The Rev. Meaghan Brower has an unconventional answer: quarantine-themed song parodies.
Brower, the executive director of the Episcopal Conference Center and priest at the adjoining Church of the Beloved in Pascoag, Rhode Island, has been trying to connect with her congregants every day. But, she told the Providence Journal, “there are only so many spiritually profound things you can say day after day.” So she’s been making parodies that are “kind of focused around following CDC guidelines” on physical distancing.
Her fourth in the series, a parody of Young MC’s “Bust a Move,” has taken off on social media. Brower made the 1989 rap hit into a tribute to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, whom Brower considers “the ultimate Rhode Island mom when it comes to telling people what we need to do to stay safe,” and a reminder to follow her directions.
Thursday, April 16
Episcopal-rooted women’s society makes masks for farmworkers
The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, an ecumenical group of more than 800 Christian women, is calling on its members to make face masks to donate and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among farmworkers.
The society, founded by Episcopal women in 1884, sent a message to its membership this week on behalf of two chapters that are rallying support for about 25,000 residents and farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida, an inland community southeast of Fort Myers.
“They are in severe danger of contacting the coronavirus. They have no protection or medical facilities,” the message said, according to Ann Smith, a society member and former head of The Episcopal Church’s women’s ministry office.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended Americans cover their noses and mouths with face coverings in situations where social distancing is difficult, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The threat of transmission is of particular concern among farming communities, where impoverished workers often live close together in group quarters and with little defense against the virus, according to an op-ed by Greg Asbed, a founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
“The two most promising measures for protecting ourselves from the virus and preventing its spread — social distancing and self-isolation — are effectively impossible in farmworker communities,” Asbed said April 3 in The New York Times.
Young Episcopalians ‘take over’ diocese’s Facebook page to lead worship
The Diocese of Pennsylvania is offering daily worship services on its Facebook page — which at first wouldn’t seem unusual in this time when churches have shifted online because in-person worship is suspended.
The difference this week is that Pennsylvania has allowed young people of the diocese to “take over” the page and lead Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline.
That means followers of the diocese Facebook page were able to pray Morning Prayer with Kellina, from Grace Episcopal Church and the Incarnation in Philadelphia, Noonday Prayer with Kojo, from St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Yeadon, and Compline with Diahna, from St. Andrew and St. Monica Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.
Kojo even played a song during his video, “My God Is Awesome.”
Wednesday, April 15
New Hampshire bishop offers serious message with ‘foolish’ unicycle ride
The COVID-19 pandemic has made many ordinary activities impossible, but if you wanted to see a bishop ride a unicycle, this was your day.
The disease was no barrier. In fact it was the reason New Hampshire Bishop Rob Hirschfeld hopped on one wheel wearing his mitre, along with a cloth face mask and plastic gloves, and pedaled the streets of Concord and the walkways outside the State House for four minutes. His serious message: It’s OK to look “foolish” when taking proper health precautions in public.
“Wear the mask,” Hirschfeld said in a video posted to Facebook. “You don’t have to wear that hat.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended Americans cover their noses and mouths with face coverings when going outside for essential errands, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (The CDC did not issue any recommendation about bishops’ hats.)
“We’re hearing some people being very self-conscious about wearing masks, and they shouldn’t be,” Hirschfeld said. He also promoted his unicycle ride as a fundraiser, with followers encouraged to donate to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Community Crisis Action Fund, which is responding to the pandemic.
Hirschfeld also invoked a biblical reference to “foolishness,” in 1 Corinthians 1:18, when he announced the ride: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Tuesday, April 14
Watch The Episcopal Church’s virtual choir perform an Easter hymn
Back in March, The Episcopal Church asked singers and musicians from across the church to help create a virtual choir: a group of people (sometimes dozens, hundreds or even thousands) performing the same piece of music, recording their parts remotely from wherever they are. Vocal and instrumental parts for the chosen hymn — the Easter classic “The Strife is O’er” — were posted online, participants filmed themselves performing and a group of editors and engineers put it all together in one seamless arrangement.
The final product, comprised of nearly 800 submissions from over 600 people around the world, premiered on Easter Sunday:
After coronavirus recovery, rector greets congregation by video on Easter
Easter Sunday marked five weeks since the Rev. Timothy Cole, rector of Christ Church Georgetown in Washington, D.C., informed his congregation on March 8 that he had tested positive for COVID-19. It was the first confirmed coronavirus case in the nation’s capital.
With the city now approaching 2,000 cases, including 50 deaths, Cole spoke for about five minutes April 12 at the beginning of the congregation’s online Easter service, thanking parishioners for their prayers and support.
Cole said that while he was being treated at a hospital, he “spent three weeks in a white room with one window showing nothing that is alive outside it.”
“It’s been a long road for me,” he said, standing outside in front of the church. “I think I was as a bit sicker that I thought I was, but I am therefore that much more grateful for being home here with my family and here with you this morning, albeit in this virtual sense.”
Christ Church Georgetown, just east of the Georgetown University campus, is one of the largest congregations in The Episcopal Church, with an average Sunday attendance of just under 450. Late March 8, the hundreds of parishioners who had visited or attended services at the church on Feb. 24 or between Feb. 28 and March 3 were urged by city health officials to quarantine themselves for 14 days due to possible exposure there to the coronavirus. The church’s organist, Tom Smith, also became sick with the disease.
Cole was one of at least eight people to have tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the mid-February conference of the CEEP Network in Louisville, Kentucky.
In his introduction to Christ Church’s Easter service, Cole said this is a time of “great fear” as COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, threatens people’s lives and livelihoods. It is easier to face that fear knowing that God will see us through, he said, and it is hard to be afraid when supported by loving friends and family. He also praised his congregation for finding ways, often online, to continue the work of the church while maintaining social distancing precautions.
“We are going to come out of this a stronger community than we went into it. And we were a strong community to already,” he said. “My prayer for all our churches and all our communities across this country and for the country itself is that that will be true for those communities and this country, too, that we will come out of this stronger than we went in.”
— David Paulsen
Presiding Bishop’s Easter reflection featured in Washington Post
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was one of nine religious leaders — including the Rev. Timothy Cole (see above) whose thoughts on celebrating Easter amid the COVID-19 pandemic were featured in The Washington Post’s opinion section on April 10.
Curry noted that while this year, Easter may not look and feel like Easter — the celebratory feast we’ve come to know and love — neither did the first Easter, which was marked by confusion and disappointment.
“You can’t change the fact of death,” Curry wrote. “But you can love through it.”
Florida priest appears in city PSA
The Rev. Adrienne Hymes, missioner for church extension for the Diocese of Southwest Florida, lent her voice to a PSA from the city of Tampa featuring religious leaders encouraging citizens to worship from home. The city’s #HappyAtHomeTPA campaign aims to keep people connected during the implementation of physical distancing.
“Our faith is bigger than this virus,” Hymes said, with an altar and Episcopal flag in the background. “We are all in this together.”
Thursday, April 9
Southern Virginia churches toll bells in gratitude
The Diocese of Southern Virginia is inviting its congregations to ring their bells as a sign of gratitude to the health care workers and first responders who are working tirelessly to treat COVID-19 patients. Churches are encouraged to ring their bells for three minutes at noon every Thursday until the crisis subsides, if they can do so while still observing the state’s restrictions.
“Our churches have rung bells in time of sorrow and in times of joy − now we can ring them to let health care workers and first responders know that we are praying for them and appreciate their efforts to care for our communities,” the diocese wrote.
Prayers and expressions of thanks can also be shared on social media using the hashtag #SoVaGrateful so that “first responders will be uplifted by our posts and find comfort in knowing that their service and commitment is valued.”
Bishops United warns of gun violence risks during pandemic
Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network of more than 100 Episcopal bishops, shared an opinion article with Religion News Service this week that argues the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need to respond to the United States’ ongoing struggle with gun violence and gun safety.
“In the midst of one plague, we are sowing the seeds of another,” the bishops say, pointing to a sudden increase in gun sales in the past month, possibly driven by fear of a breakdown in social order.
“As bishops of The Episcopal Church, we are concerned that the proliferation of weapons in our society will result not in greater safety, but in greater violence,” they say. Suicide is of particular concern, at a time when Americans are advised to spend most of their time isolated in their homes to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Just as you take care to protect yourself against infection in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we urge you to protect yourself and your loved ones from circumstances in which gun violence is likely to occur.”
You can read the full article here.
– David Paulsen
Diocese of Atlanta campus missioner traveling to New York to help hospitals as nurse
The Diocese of Atlanta on April 8 shared a first-person story of a campus missioner who is trained as a registered nurse and chose to travel to New York to assist with the coronavirus response in the epicenter of the virus’s spread in the United States.
Rebecca Land Segrest is a missioner assigned to the Northwest Georgia Canterbury Club, which includes Berry College, Shorter College and Georgia Highlands. She is preparing to leave April 12 to spend eight weeks helping at overcrowded hospitals in New York.
“I don’t really know what to expect when I get there, but I am sure I will quickly find out,” Segrest says in a post on the diocese’s website. “I have been in numerous situations where you don’t know what you’re getting into when you respond, but you go, because someone needs your help, praying that your training is enough.”
New York State has recorded about 150,000 cases of the coronavirus as of April 9, including more than 80,000 in New York City, according to data compiled by The New York Times. More than 6,000 people have died in the state.
Missouri priest provides medical expertise from her background as doctor
Add the Rev. Maria Evans to the short list of Episcopal clergy who are sharing their medical expertise with dioceses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Evans, serving as interim rector of Christ Church in Rolla, Missouri, also is a pathologist and laboratory medical director who has more than 30 years of experience advising hospitals on infection control.
Evans has begun answering questions on the Diocese of Missouri’s website in a feature called “Ask the Rev. Doctor Maria.” In an April 7 post, she responds to questions about COVID-19 immunity and availability of testing.
You can read her answers here.
The Diocese of Maine also has a priest who also serves as a doctor. The Rev. Suzanne Roberts, an associate at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland, discussed the virus March 21 in a video the diocese posted to YouTube.
– David Paulsen
Monday, April 6
Virtual choir sings ‘Ride on, King Jesus’ during Switzerland church’s Palm Sunday service
As more and more churches move their Sunday services online, virtual choirs are popping up as well. During its April 5 Palm Sunday livestream service, Emmanuel Episcopal Church’s virtual choir performed “Ride on, King Jesus.” Fast forward to 17:30 to watch and listen.
Emmanuel is an Episcopal church in Geneva, Switzerland, and part of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe.
Friday, April 3
Presiding Bishop shares message of hope on NBC’s ‘Today’
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry made another network news appearance on April 3, this time on NBC’s “Today” show. Curry and Rabbi Shai Held, president of the Hadar Institute, joined hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie to talk about how to keep hope alive in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
“We can navigate through difficult and tough times by holding onto God’s hand and holding onto each other’s hands − at a respectful social distance,” Curry said.
Thursday, April 2
Massachusetts priests entertain parishioners with dance challenge
Maybe you’ve seen some of the dance challenges that are spreading on social media as people find ways to entertain themselves under lockdown. But have you seen a priest do it in a cassock?
That’s what the Rev. Tim Schenck, rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts, did. The Rev. Jack Clark, the associate rector at St. John’s, filmed herself dancing along to Meghan Trainor’s “Me Too” and challenged the parish’s families to do the same. If 10 families did it, Schenck would follow suit.
In just a few days, they did. The result even made the local news.
Wednesday, April 1
The Rev. Janet Broderick shares her near-death COVID-19 experience
“I was close to death. I kind of had gone off the cliff — my lungs had to make a decision. I had pneumonia and water in my lungs. I remember thinking, Calm down and go to sleep. I spoke to Jesus, I planned my funeral. I FaceTimed with my children. They say how I looked and sounded like Darth Vader. I was gasping for air,” she said of her first night in ICU.
Broderick was one of at least six people who attended the mid-February CEEP Network conference in Kentucky to contract the new coronavirus. She formerly served as rector of historic Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is the sister of actor Matthew Broderick.
Monday, March 30
Washington Post profiles rector who had D.C.’s first COVID-19 case
The Rev. Timothy Cole, the rector of a Washington, D.C., church who had the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the city, is the subject of an in-depth Washington Post article that tells the story of his infection, hospitalization and recovery.
Cole, 59, is the rector of Christ Church Georgetown, one of the largest parishes in The Episcopal Church. The parish’s organist, Thomas Smith, and four parishioners also tested positive.
“However hard the cost may be, we know there will come a point where we can see the end, and we know there will come a point we will be at the end and be able to start again,” Cole told the Post.
Sunday Sermon in a Pandemic: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Jim Wallis in conversation
In this first episode of the Sunday Sermon in a Pandemic series, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Jim Wallis discuss making connections to faith and worship, spirituality and justice, in the digital and social media age. Click here to listen.
Presiding Bishop talks about keeping the faith on ABC News
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry appeared on ABC News on March 27 to talk about how people of faith can maintain spiritual health in times of crisis. Curry’s conversation with host Amy Robach touched on the ways churches are moving communal worship online and ways that people can still help their communities while keeping their distance.
Friday, March 27
Texas priest recovering from COVID-19 returns to lead worship
The Rev. Robert Pace, one of the first Episcopal rectors to test positive for COVID-19, has recovered enough to lead his church’s livestream worship services again. The 53-year-old rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas, was briefly hospitalized but has been released from quarantine after two negative tests confirmed he no longer has the virus, according to the Diocese of Fort Worth.
“I am feeling much better,” Pace said in a diocesan announcement. “I still have to rest more than my ‘normal,’ but I am so much better. My voice is finally returning, and I am planning to lead Morning Prayer and preach from Trinity this Sunday.”
Pace will lead Morning Prayer, which is available by Zoom and Facebook Live, at 9:30 a.m. on March 29. It will be the first worship service he has led since Ash Wednesday (Feb. 26).
COVID-19 Anglican Alliance resource hub
A new resource hub has been published by the Anglican Alliance to highlight the key areas of church responses to COVID-19 and provide links to useful guidelines. The hub has been developed by the alliance after its global team connected with churches in each region to learn about their experience and gather examples of effective responses.
The alliance held a series of regional and global consultations to learn from responses across the provinces and is also engaging with the World Health Organization and with other Christian and secular agencies to learn from their expertise.
More details can be found here.
Thursday, March 26
Doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients face the additional challenge of a shortage of masks and other protective gear. Knitters around the United States, like Cathy Racine of Charlton, Massachusetts, are responding by making homemade masks, which — though not ideal — may provide some temporary protection until proper masks arrive.
Racine and other volunteers put together kits to make hundreds of masks for nearby hospitals and distributed them at Christ Episcopal Church in Rochdale, Massachusetts, to a larger network of volunteers, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported.
“With people staying separate, nobody knows how to love, and this was a true act of love,” said the Rev. Aileen DiBenedetto, the church’s rector.
As COVID-19 limits many church ministries but presents opportunities for new ones, Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe invites all the clergy and lay people of the Diocese of Central New York to renew their baptismal and ordination vows together via Zoom. The virtual ceremony will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on March 31 and can be accessed as a videoconference or an audio call from any phone.
The Episcopal Church is asking musically inclined people from across the church to help create a virtual choir: a group of people (sometimes dozens, hundreds or even thousands) performing the same piece of music, recording their parts remotely from wherever they are. A team of video and audio engineers will then edit the submissions and synchronize them. The result will be released on Easter Sunday, and a classic Easter hymn has been chosen: “The Strife is O’er.”
“If you’re a choir member without a choir, a musician without an orchestra, or just someone who loves to sing and be part of the group, you’re who we need!” the church wrote.
– Egan Millard
Wednesday, March 25
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in calling for all Christians to pray for healing amid the COVID-19 pandemic at noon on March 25. Curry offered the prayer “In Time of Great Sickness and Mortality” from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
Tuesday, March 24
The Diocese of Maine is drawing on the expertise of a priest as it informs Episcopalians about COVID-19. But the Rev. Suzanne Roberts, an associate at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland, isn’t just any priest. She’s also a primary care physician.
“I’m speaking to you from both of my roles,” Roberts said in a video the diocese posted to YouTube on March 21 to answer questions about the coronavirus pandemic. In the video, she wears her white clergy collar, and “you’ll have to imagine the white coat, because I tend to not wear them at the same time,” she says.
Monday, March 23
As Episcopalians adjust their everyday lives to slow the spread of the new coronavirus by practicing social distancing, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has invited them to join him on Mondays through May in taking a moment to cultivate a “habit of grace.”
Friday, March 20
‘Drive-in’ church in McAllen, Texas
St. John’s Episcopal Church in McAllen, Texas, is planning a “drive-in church” service at 10:30 a.m. Sundays starting on March 22.
The idea is similar to a drive-in movie, with congregants parking their cars in the church’s lot and tuning their radios to the frequency – 97.3 FM – on which the Morning Prayer service will be broadcast. This “new way of worshiping together” is set for at least the next three Sundays.
“We invite you to sing, pray and participate together with us from the comfort and safety of your own automobiles,” the congregation said in a Facebook announcement.
Other churches are considering or moving forward with similar worship arrangements, including the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which offered drive-through Communion on March 15.
– David Paulsen
Cross-denomination food ministry carries on in Albertville, Alabama
Christ Episcopal Church in Albertville, Alabama, participated in a cross-denominational food ministry on March 18, meeting at First Baptist Church to load cars with bagged food and then distribute the food to families around town.
“What a blessing it was to be able to help our fellow Albertians during this time of need and risk,” the Rev. Omar Reyes told Episcopal News Service in an email.
– David Paulsen
Texas rector recovers from virus
The Rev. Robert Pace, one of the first Episcopal rectors to test positive for COVID-19, has been released from quarantine after two negative tests confirmed he has cleared the virus, though he is still recovering from the pneumonia it caused.
Pace, the 53-year-old rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas, was hospitalized with the first documented case of the virus in his county on March 9. He was released from the hospital on March 17 and is at home with his wife, who has not tested positive but is still in quarantine, the Diocese of Fort Worth said. Pace was one of at least six people who attended the CEEP conference in February who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“I am significantly improved in my health, but I am still weak,” Pace said in the diocesan statement. “One of the difficult things about this coronavirus is the pneumonia and the shortness of breath. Although I am much better, it’s still a process. … We are called to be the church in new ways. We love as God loves in this particular day and age by keeping this virus from spreading. We minimize our physical contact with others. But that doesn’t mean we limit the ways we reach out to each other.”
– Egan Millard
Wedding bells ring in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Churches everywhere are taking precautions in how they handle weddings and funerals, including in many cases postponing them if possible unless they can be limited to small groups.
Allia Dhody and her fiancé, Michael Mountjoy, decided they couldn’t wait to marry, so on March 18 they spent the afternoon with the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, rector of the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for a pandemic-style wedding in the garden in front of the church.
“Married these two on the sunny terrace during a pandemic,” Kerbel said in a Facebook post. “Their nephew below had a plague stick to keep us all six feet apart (except for the bride and groom) and a plague mask. His mother works at the Mudder Museum, so…..”
The only others in attendance: Dhody’s mother, sister and brother-in-law, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report. Mountjoy’s parents “attended” via Facetime. There was no reception.
“We did it because we have a marriage license that is going to expire and the courts are closed and we didn’t know what to do,” Dhody told the Inquirer. “So much has changed so quickly from when we got the license.”
– David Paulsen
CARAVAN launches an open call for artwork on mending the brokenness of our global family
Recognizing the interconnectedness of today’s world, the many ailments besieging humanity — injustice, exploitation, conflict, abuse — and in response to spread and impact of the coronavirus worldwide, CARAVAN is making an open call to artists around the world to submit two- and three-dimensional works for an online expedition.
The deadline for submissions is May 16. Click here for more information.
Can’t touch this – it’s Holy Eucharist at St. James’
And a final update for Friday: File this under, “Clergy With a Sense of Humor.”
Thursday, March 19
In Wisconsin, phone calls to parishioners and a freezer stocked with food
With worship services canceled at Trinity Episcopal Church in Oshkosh, the Rev. Chris Arnold, the rector, is overseeing a team of parishioners who have organized a frozen meal ministry for church members who are able or willing to leave their home. Starting March 18, the congregation is launching a weekly phone call ministry to check on every family in the church directory.
“We’re trying to find ways of not relying on email, because some of our members don’t have a computer,” Arnold said. In a city of about 66,000, Trinity is the only Episcopal congregation, and its typical Sunday attendance of a little more than 50 is much older than the general population, he said.
Arnold credits the work of a group of about a half dozen women in the congregation who previously had wanted to bring back a ministry of preparing meals for grieving families after funerals. Instead, they now are filling the church’s freezer with soups and stews – Arnold contributed his lentil soup – so the ready-made meals can be distributed to households identified as needed them during the rounds of phone calls.
Arnold also is considering ways of offering parishioners devotional experiences in the church, such as by inviting them to the church on a weekday afternoon to pray individually, since they won’t be able to gather there as a group.
“My hope that we will actually wind up learning how to take care of each other as a community better,” he said. “We may be turned upside down for a while but it’s not going to shake the eternal promises of the Gospel.”
– David Paulsen
New Jersey bishop holds virtual town-hall meetings with lay leaders
Bishop Chip Stokes of New Jersey is keeping lay leaders in his diocese in the loop with a weekly Zoom meeting.
“As we all continue to deal with our responses to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Stokes is holding weekly town-hall meetings with lay leaders,” the Diocese of New Jersey writes. “It’s a chance to ask questions, share information, or even just to vent and to pray in community with other lay leaders.”
The meetings will take place on Zoom every Thursday at 7 p.m. until further notice, starting March 19, and lay leaders can join here.
– Egan Millard
Two ukuleles, three Durfees and the Way of Love
As the coronavirus dominates headlines and social media feeds, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Napa, California, shared this video of their ukulele-playing parishioner Stephen Durfee and his sons, with an upbeat message: The Way of Love.