Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The past few days have been understandably filled with societal anxiety. A global pandemic is uncharted territory in the modern era. Therefore, in times of fear and uncertainty, I am reminded that the most repeated command throughout scripture is “Do not be afraid.” Specifically, I am reminded of Isaiah 41:10 that says “…do not fear, for I am with you.” These are words from God through the prophet Isaiah amid great loss and distress after the Temple was destroyed and people were removed from their homes. God’s words ring out with hope.
Even as we remember these comforting words from Isaiah, we all must do our part to ensure that we protect those that are the most vulnerable within our community. As you have probably heard by now, all schools in Louisiana have suspended classes until after Easter and we have also seen countless other cancellations throughout our city, state, and country. In fact, Governor Edwards signed an order this morning banning all gatherings over 250 people through April 13.
In light of these updates and the current risks, we are also going to err on the side of caution by canceling all worship services held at St. James Church this Sunday (March 15) and Wednesday (March 18). However, I will be recording Morning Prayer and sharing it via email and Facebook. In this way, we can still gather in spirit as the body of Christ. I will also be on hand at the church to say prayers with anyone that comes by between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday. Then next week, I will have time to talk with members of the Vestry, my staff, and the diocese as we plan how to proceed forward.
As for the other ministries of the parish (Sunday School, Youth Group, Bible Studies, Outreach Ministries, etc), these are being suspended immediately for at least two weeks (Sunday, March 15 through Saturday, 28). Once again, we will reassess in the days ahead. Please note that the staff will be meeting on Monday, March 16 to create a plan to ensure we address the pastoral needs of the parish. Stay tuned for more updates in the days and weeks ahead. In the meantime, please know that Fr. Ralph, the staff, and I are here for each of you.
I want to conclude with this comforting prayer from Compline:
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.