Pastoral Response - March 10, 2020
Dear People of St. Michael’s:
We, like many of you, are closely following the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread across the United States and the world. We are trying to understand and navigate the information being put forth by the CDC, the New Mexico Department of Public Health, and our diocese. We want to be safe while resisting the anxious impulse to overreact. It is a fine line, and I anticipate we will all, collectively and individually, do it with much grace and good will, even if not perfectly.
As we mentioned on Sunday, our primary concern is for the well-being–in all aspects–of the members of our community. For many years, we have taken steps to lessen the risk to those in our community living with reduced or compromised immune systems.
However in light of the current focus on COVID-19, what more might we do? As we consider our next steps to respond faithfully and proactively to this evolving situation, our conversations will be guided by the question, “What does love bid us?”
So, what does love bid us?
First, we want to ensure members of our faith community feel safe. One way we can do this is to limit physical contact between us. For the next three Sundays, we ask you to avoid shaking hands or hugging one another during the Peace. There are several in our community who have higher risk factors of getting sick through physical contact.
While exchanging the Peace is an ancient practice and important part of our liturgy, love bids us to understand that avoiding physical contact will help ensure members of our community can still participate in worship during this time. Bowing to one another, looking at each other in the eye, and greeting the other verbally with “Peace be with you” will convey the message that we see and care for each other.
We will reevaluate this at the end of March and based on the information at that time, we will determine how to proceed.
Secondly, refrain from intinction. Many believe that dipping their bread into the cup of wine is preferable to drinking from the common cup, but this is not the case. Intinction is a more risky way to partake in communion. Intinction actually increases the probability of contaminating the wine. Instead, love bids us to commune in one of two ways—either drink from the common cup, or receive the bread only. Our theology is very clear—receiving the bread only is entirely sufficient to receive the grace of the sacrament. For those not inclined to drink from the common cup, please receive communion in one kind (the bread).
Lastly, if you are sick, love bids us to stay home. This is perhaps the best way you can care for others, by reducing the risk of exposure and making others sick. This obviously presents challenges for us to be together in worship as a full community, but it does not mean we cease being community. It means we have an opportunity to be community in different ways.
In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to explore ways of being in community with one another when all of us are not present. We look forward to this continuing conversation.
Minister of Community Care