As we enter into another week of quarantine, worship from a distance, and an uncertain future, we do so as a community. We do so with the knowledge that God is with us, and that all will be well.
I ask your prayers for our St. Stephen’s community. The effects of this crisis are already hitting very close to home. Although, thankfully, none of our community had been diagnosed with the virus, we are starting to see members affected by reduced work hours, financial shortfall due to the looming recession and, of course, our regular day-to-day pastoral issues.
As you know, one of our own continues to near the end of his earthly journey. I ask that you continue to keep Larry Kindseth in your prayers, as well as his wife, Anna and his daughters, including our own Janie Breth, and her family.
Another parishioner is with her ailing father in California and is thus further separated from our community. Please pray for Amy Phillips, her father, Sam, as well as Dan and their family during this time.
We still gather to worship. Our live streaming Mass is a huge success, with almost 200 people viewing each liturgy and participating from home. We also have people joining us from around the country and the world. The feedback to our live streaming has been phenomenal! Please keep posting those comments! (I will publish a few of them in our newsletter next week)
I am also aware that some of us are not members of Facebook for various reasons. With that in mind, and with the goal of widest outreach to our members, as well as non-members, we have now formed our very St. Stephen’s Channel on YouTube and have been uploading the videos of our Sunday and Wednesday masses there. Our St. Stephen’s YouTube channel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcdWKCnCHmviajkFX5p-xGg
The link can also be found on our website and blog. Or simply go to YouTube.com and search for “St. Stephen’s Fargo.” Please be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel.
We are all brand new to this unique way of communicating and new ways of worship. There are, of course, going to mistakes as we proceed. Please be patient with us as navigate this strange new world together.
Both John Anderson and I have been slowly but surely making phone calls, emailing and texting parishioners to check on their well-being. Communication though is a two-way street of course, so please do check in on a regular basis with me so that we can be in regular communication during this time.
The work of the Church continues. We celebrated Laetare Sunday this past Sunday, though our rejoicing on this Rose Sunday was a bit subdued. We also blessed John Anderson’s new Deacon’s stole (made by Jean Sando) and his brand-new Dalmatic.
In addition to our weekly Masses, our Vestry also met on Sunday by Zoom. It was a productive meeting but one in which we all realized how difficult it is to meet everyone’s needs at this time.
Our wardens, Jean and Jessica, communicate on a daily basis (oftentimes many times a day). Please keep your wardens and Vestry in your prayers as well.
The big questions for the near future, of course, concern John Anderson’s ordination and Holy Week.
John Anderson’s ordination: I have been in contact with Bishop Keith Whitmore about whether the April 4th date for ordination is still feasible. As we all know, this situation changes day by day. Earlier last week, we were weighing the option of a small ordination service on April 4th, which could then be live streamed. Since then, the situation has become more dire and it has become abundantly clear that the quarantine will continue into at least the first week of April. The concern on our part and for Bishop Keith is the matter of travel. Bishop Keith is 74 and squarely within the range of vulnerability for this virus. With that in mind, we must simply prepare ourselves for a postponement the ordination. John is fully aware of this and is willing to do what needs to be done. Please do keep John, Jessica and their family in your prayers at this time. This is just one more unavoidable disappointment for him in an already frustrating process.
Holy Week: it is becoming more obvious that the quarantine will remain in effect past the originally planned deadline of April 1. That means that it is becoming starkly clear that our Holy Week liturgies will be closed to public worship. However, we will continue to do those liturgies, though we will reduce them greatly, and will pare down the liturgies themselves.
The revised schedule for Holy Week is as follows:
Maundy Thursday Mass will be on April 9 at 7:00 p.m. as planned. There will be no foot washing.
There will only be one Good Friday liturgy on April 10 (no Stations of the Cross). The liturgy will be at 12:00 p.m.
I debated about whether we will do the Holy Saturday liturgy, but it is one of the most meaningful liturgies of Holy Week, and one that speaks loudly to us at this time. The Holy Saturday liturgy will be at 10:00 a.m. on April 11.
There will be NO Easter Vigil Mass on April 11.
We will celebrate Easter on April 12 at our regular time of 11:00 a.m. The baptism planned for Easter Day is rescheduled for another time.
All the Masses will be live streamed, as well posted to the YouTube Channel.
This is where are as we enter another week of this strange, new reality. I reiterate the message that I have continued to preach throughout this time: do not fear. Do not let anxiety and despair win out in this situation. Our God of love is close to us through all of this.
In my sermon last Sunday, I shared this:
We will get through this.
We will gather again in our church building.
We will again shake hands and hug at the Peace.
We will again share the Body and the Blood of Jesus at Holy Communion at the altar again.
We will all sit down at our post-Mass luncheon and eat our fill again.
We will all go out and do the ministries we have all been called to do again.
And this time we are going through right now will seem like a strange and truly bizarre dream.
Please hold this truth close to you as we make our way through this desert-time.
Continue to stay put, wash your hands, be safe, and pray. Pray for St. Stephen’s, for the Church, for our Nation and for the world. Please pray for me too. Know that all you continue to be included in my daily prayers. I miss those of you whom I cannot see in person. But we will see each other soon.