COVID-19  Updates

 

Click on the links below to read Bishop Bonnie Perry's letter regarding protocols for church in our Diocese.

https://www.edomi.org/covidpastoraldirective/ 

https://www.edomi.org/maybishopsdirective/

https://www.edomi.org/update-to-covid-19-reentry-directive/#more-2706

Parish Letters

June 11th Letter from the Vestry

June 11, 2020

 

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." – Galatians 6:9

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

In some ways it feels like it was just March a few days ago and at other times it feels like it has been ages since we last saw each other. News of COVID-19 and directives from the governor and bishop were ever-changing and we began to take on a new normal. Now we have adapted. We have new routines, new behaviors, and we pray, a new sense of Christ within us. Change is often difficult but consider the ways you have been resilient and flexible. We are proud of how you continue to be the church outside of its walls.

 

Last month, Bishop Perry sent the entire diocese a document entitled, “Plan for Re-Entry for Great Lakes Episcopalians.” It states: “The following multi-phase plan contains practices for how Episcopalians in the State of Michigan will undertake re-entry after hiatus, pending further recommendations from health officials and our governor. The way forward will not be immediate and may not be linear. It is through a faithful balance of science and pastoral care that we will respond accordingly.” It outlines both requirements and recommendations for churches regarding building and office use, worship and formation, and service and outreach.  Currently, as we shelter in place, we are on Phase I: Hiatus. Phase II is entitled “Re-Entry” and Phase III is “Deeper Participation.”
 

While all Vestry members read the 11-page document, a sub-committee met and discussed our congregation’s most vulnerable population, who are prohibited from in-person public worship during Phase II, and the Phase II requirements. The vulnerable population of the congregation includes: individuals aged 60 and older, parents of young children, those who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions associated with comorbidity, or those who live with someone who is immunocompromised or has such underlying health conditions. Friends, that simply does not leave many of us left to re-enter and worship in Phase II, as it excludes over 80-90% of the people we see on an average Sunday at St. George’s, and the requirements to do so are not feasible in our context.  
 

As Father Paul is preparing for paternity leave and will have a new-born, who will have an undeveloped immune system before she is able to get her first vaccines at 8 weeks, we must also consider his exposure as someone who would encounter arguably the most people. Therefore, your Vestry has come to the following consensus: Our decision to preserve the sanctity of life best fitting our congregation is to return to the building for in-person public worship and other activities after the bishop initiates Phase III. Virtual worship and other virtual offerings will continue through this time and remain after we re-enter our building in Phase III. If there are any changes to this decision, we will be sure to inform you with haste.

Each church and their re-entry will look different during these next few months. We know this is hard. We long to be with you in-person. Know we are here for you to listen, to worship with, and to pray with. Keep the faith and keep in touch with your faith community as we eagerly await our reunion. As always, you are welcome to reach out to any member of the Vestry or Fr. Paul with any questions about this letter.

 

Yours In Christ,

 

The 2020 St. George’s Vestry

May 6th Letter from Fr. Paul

May 6, 2020

 

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.       -2 Corinthians 4:8-12, 16-18

 

Dear friends in Christ,

These words from St. Paul the Apostle have been on my mind much as of late. I find great comfort in them. What Paul says here is both highly relatable (although we can only identify with what he experienced in a limited way, not facing physical persecution in the way he did) and encouraging. This portion of his second epistle to the Corinthians has always felt like a coach’s locker room halftime pep talk for a team who is down by several touchdowns at the end of the first half. I say this to you quite candidly unsure if we have reached halftime or whether we are even out of the first quarter. I take comfort in knowing that the saints who have gone before us have endured much—often enduring much more than we are now—and the Church has grown stronger because of their experience.

Christians throughout the centuries have faced various and sundry afflictions, and yet the Church has not been crushed; utter perplexities, and yet the Church has not fallen into despair; persecution as we have never known, and yet the Church was not forsaken by the God who redeems; martyrs have been struck down, and yet the Church was not destroyed (Indeed, it was Tertullian who in the early Roman persecutions said, “We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”). While our momentary affliction is not nearly severe as those the Church have faced in the past, it is still the one that we face now, and we must endure it with faithfulness, remaining fervent in prayer and steadfast in the hope that we have been given.

By now, you have all received—and I hope read—the latest joint pastoral directive from the bishops of the four Episcopal dioceses in Michigan, along with the attached details on their three-phase re-entry plan. I know that in some ways, it is comforting to have a plan laid out ahead of us; in others it may be discouraging to read it, as some have already expressed the feeling that it seems like they’ll never be able to go to church again because they are in the more vulnerable population. I want to assure you; we will all return to our parish church. I only wish that I could tell you exactly when that will happen. While we do not know what the necessary benchmarks are for transitioning from Phase One to Phase Two and Phase Three, we do know what these incremental transitions look like and I can promise you your Vestry’s due diligence in developing a plan for our parish in accordance with the requirements and advice of our bishop. We will start discussing our plans during our May 27th meeting.

In the meantime, we will continue as we have some weeks now with almost daily online services, virtual coffee hour after Sunday, and Wednesday night Bible study. Please continue to call each other. Remember also that there can be Zoom meetings that are not initiated by me. My account has the benefit of a group meeting lasting longer than 40 minutes. Your accounts still allow you to start meetings and invite people to them. If you have a basic account, you can send a new meeting invitation after the 40-minute session expires. I encourage you to take advantage of this if you seek to find additional means of connection and mutual growth: read and discuss a book together, do additional Bible study, make masks together, simply visit with one another, watch a show or a movie together, etc.

I continue to hold you all in my personal prayers daily. I ask that you continue to pray for the Vestry and for me as we carve our way forward, following the pastoral direction of our bishop. Please keep her in your prayers also as she takes on the monumental task of shepherding our diocese through the momentary affliction before us. The Church continues to endure, and we with it, by God’s grace.

Ever yours in Christ,

Fr. Paul

 

March 26th Letter from Fr. Paul

March 26, 2020

 

Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.    Matthew 11:28

Dear friends in Christ,

I am writing to you from my living room, with my wife in our room trying to work, and our daughter in hers fighting a nap. I’m tired, feeling at times like I’m grasping at straws—a feeling to which perhaps many of you can relate—and covet your prayers. This is hard. This is really hard. I feel like I’ve gone through the stages of grief with each pastoral directive issued by our bishop, about how we are to conduct our worship and life together as a congregation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the hardest part is not knowing precisely when this will end and when life—our life—will be able to return to normal. I miss you. At this point I have lost track of how many days it has been since we’ve been able to come together in worship and fellowship. I’m sure it feels much longer than it’s been in reality.

My mind is drawn to the Comfortable Words that follow the Confession and Absolution in Holy Eucharist: Rite I—particularly to these words from the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew at the head of this letter. Jesus has just gathered his disciples, given them instruction before sending them ahead of him to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom, and as he sends them off turns his attention to the crowd to speak about John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. Even as Jesus speaks words of judgment to the crowd—words to inspire repentance—he offers these words of comfort as to say, “You who are worn out by what life has thrown at you, you who are exhausted, you who are full of anxiety, you who are carrying unbearable burdens of body, mind, and spirit; lay them all down before me. Place them at the foot of my cross. I will give you rest. I will give you refreshment. I will give you the peace that passes all human understanding” (not actually a biblical quote). Jesus follows this with these words: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (actual biblical quote).

Friends, if there was ever a time for us to let go of everything and finally abandon ourselves to rest in the finished work of Jesus done for us, this is surely it. In our Bible study last night on Zoom, we talked about the Lord’s presence with us, about the need to “let it be,” about truly not fearing because the Lord is with us and for us, about not just loving the Lord but trusting the Lord. This is, without a doubt, the best time for that. With so little in our personal control right now, we are being forced to stop and realize how little control we really had. We are forced to get deeply in touch with our creatureliness, with our sinfulness, with our fearfulness. I pray you to lay it down. Sit there for a moment—right now as your read this—stop reading, sit there for a long while, and just let God love you. Feel it. Know that your salvation is complete in the finished work of Christ on the cross and rest in that.

Many of you are filled with anxiety right now. You’re anxious about having lost your job or that you will lose your job. You’re anxious about you getting sick or a loved one getting sick with this virus. You’re anxious about mortality. You’re anxious about your families, your colleagues, your church, your communities—you’re just plain anxious. I ask you to lay it down. And I say this to you because I need to hear it also. I need to lay down my burdens and take upon me the yoke of Christ. There is rest for us in him, only in him.

Here is how we make it through this together, as best as I can tell:

  1. We need to be praying. Whether it is together or individually, we need to be praying. While the Daily Office is being streamed almost daily from our Facebook page, I know not all of you have been able to watch it. If you haven’t participated in worship in that way, particularly on Sundays, because you haven’t wanted to get on Facebook for any reason, I need to tell you that you  need to lay it down at the foot of the Cross. It is essential that you experience our community prayer life with your fellow parishioners. If you need help, call someone. We will walk you through it. If it is an absolute impossibility, please pray individually at the same time, 9:00 AM on Sundays for our principal service. There are also opportunities for people to gather in small groups for prayer via Zoom (more on Zoom later). If your schedule allows you to pray the full round of the Daily Office throughout the day every day, do it. We need as much prayer as we can muster right now.

  2. We need to be communicating. Please call at least one person from our congregation every day, and not just the people you already know. This is an opportunity to make new relationships. This is also an important way to ensure that nobody is completely isolated and that we know how to take care of one another as best we can. Some of you are facing financial hardship right now. We need to know so we can support you. It is also crucial that you participate as much as you are able in Zoom meetings as opportunities for prayer, fellowship—virtual coffee hour and other check-ins, Bible study, and meetings. I know some of you are resistant to the idea of learning new technology, but we’re in this for the long haul and we need you to lay that resistance down at the foot of the Cross. Even if you cannot download Zoom to a smartphone, tablet, or computer to video chat, due to a lack of proper equipment or any other reason, if you can make a phone call, you can join us on Zoom. Even though it would be best to be able to see your face, at least we’ll be able to hear your voice, and you ours. Every Zoom invitation includes both instructions for video chatting and for dialing in like a traditional conference call. Please join us.

  3. We need to be resting. For some of us life has slowed down and for others it has become busier. Some are working 70-80-hour weeks with everything else to pile on top of their daily work. If you are in a forced over-functioning situation, please find time to rest. Pick balls to let drop as strategically as you can and—you guessed it—lay them at the foot of the Cross. You need rest. If you are someone for whom life has slowed down, please pray for us for whom it has accelerated: pray for us to have the energy we need and for us to have the wisdom to know when a day simply needs to be done.

  4. We need to be giving generously. Not everyone will be able to continue to give as planned. Many will be able to. Others may yet be able to give more generously than originally anticipated. If you cannot give at this time, please notify me or our Treasurer because our Vestry needs to know how to adjust accordingly. Having our building shut down for use does not reduce our operational expenses as much as one might think, and we are at risk of a significant cash flow crisis if giving stops because of our lack of in person worship. If you have the capability to switch to our online giving platform, Tithe.ly, please do so with haste. If you are hesitant to because you haven’t wanted to do online giving in the past because you prefer to put an envelop in the plate, please consider that it will be some time before there is a plate. I know there are principled reasons that people hold to against giving online. For the sake of your church, I ask you to lay those at the foot of the Cross also. If you need help, call our Parish Administrator or Treasurer and they will help you. While giving is the last priority on my mind, after praying, communicating, and resting, it is nonetheless important. We want to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic with our congregational life intact, and our giving is essential to making that happen. Furthermore, this is essential for us to have the resources to support members of our community that find themselves in need because of this pandemic.

 

All of this comes down to faith and trust. It is a matter of laying down our burdens at the foot of the Cross and believing in Jesus. Our God is the God for whom all things are possible, who made a virgin have a baby, who raises the dead to life. If there was ever a time to truly and deeply believe that God cares for you, will provide for you, and has saved you: this is it.

Be not afraid, for the Lord is with you; trust in him. Let each of us who are weary and carrying heavy burdens come to Jesus. He will give us rest.

You are all in my prayers.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Paul

March 19th Letter from Treasurer

March 19, 2020

 

Fellow Parishioners:

 

With the Covid-19 outbreak across the nation, things are changing fast almost hourly. Fr. Paul, our Parish Administrator, Michelle and I, your Treasurer, are trying to keep up with them. Personally, I know that Fr. Paul and Michelle are working diligently to keep St. George’s moving in the right direction to responsibly keep our life of faith active and alive. With services online instead of in the church building, our ability to contribute financially to St. George’s mission is severely hampered. Most of our congregation contributes by check at the Sunday worship.

 

While trying to avoid personal contact as suggested by guidelines from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control it can be quite cumbersome to handle the checks and the banking required to get the donations into our accounts. We can continue to contribute with modern technology. Tithe.ly, our online contribution platform, can handle contributions by clicking on the link at the St. George’s website or by clicking on this link: https://tithe.ly/give?c=56908 .  (detailed directions on page 2)

 

For everyone’s convenience we have also added text giving through Tithe.ly. It can be accomplished easily as a short text message from any smartphone. To initiate text giving, text the word GIVE to 833-348-0395. You will receive a text back with a link to set up a Tithe.ly account or to add text giving to your already existing account. If you are establishing a new account, be ready to create a password and a 4-digit P.I.N. of your choice. Tithe.ly gives you the option to pay with a credit card or can have a withdrawal taken right from your bank account. There is a small fee for using this service. One benefit that Tithe.ly features is allowing the donor to pay that fee on behalf of the church.

 

Once you have text giving enabled, at any time you can text a chosen dollar amount and the fund you wish to contribute to 833-348-0395 (For example, “$50 General Operating Fund”). If you already have recurring payments set up through Tithe.ly, your giving will continue on its regular schedule. Text giving will allow you to contribute one-time gifts as and when you wish.

 

Thank you for considering this option.

 

May God bless us all,

 

Ed Carravallah, Treasurer

Treasurer@stgeorgesmilford.org

 

There are two options for setting up your account: using the Tithe.ly App or on your computer (website).  

 

To use the App-

1.   Install the Tithe.ly App on your phone (offered for Android and Apple).

2.  Create an account.

3.  Make sure you select or search for Saint George’s Episcopal Church to donate if not already listed.

4.  Set up your payment information (credit card or checking)

5.  Select give now to set up a payment (this is also where you will be given the options to create recurring payments).

6.  There is an option for you to cover the fees that Tithe.ly charges St. George’s to use their service.

 

To use your computer (via the website)-

1.  Go to our website and click on the Green Tithe.ly Button at the bottom of the home page.  Or go to:  https://tithe.ly/give?c=56908

2.  Create an account.

3.  Make sure you select or search for Saint George’s Episcopal Church to donate if not already listed.

4.  Set up your payment information (credit card or checking)

5.  Select give now to set up a payment (this is also where you will be given the option to create recurring payments).

6.  There is an option for you to cover the fees that Tithe.ly charges St. George’s to use their service.

March 19th Letter from Stewardship & Vestry

March 19, 2020

 

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

 

We are writing this in in response to both the Bishops recent pastoral directive and Father Paul’s letter about the temporary parish protocols as the COVID19 virus runs its course. In the coming months, we will experience uncertainty and anxiety. We will face challenges we have never encountered before.  As a congregation, we have weathered difficult situations before and learned that when we stay connected and strong in our faith, we can see this through. While we are not able to attend services in person, we can worship Sunday Morning Prayer and the Daily Office together via Facebook or in our own time. It is important to stay in contact, pray for each other, and reach out to those that are alone or in need and minister to each other. This can be done simply by picking up the phone and calling a few numbers in our directory, joining Zoom video meetings, or calling in to our conference call number.

 

It is also necessary to remember, in this time of trial that our church continues to otherwise function and incur expenses. It is important to our operational continuity that we continue to contribute our pledges and other giving, so we don’t find ourselves in a cash flow crisis. We encourage you to do this online if you are able, but you can still bring offerings to the office throughout the week by appointment or send them in the mail. If this crisis puts you in financial difficulty, temporary or permanent, and it is not possible to do so, please contact Father Paul. In that same light, please be alert to fellow congregation members that may be in financial crisis and coordinate with Fr. Paul that we may work together to provide relief to those who find themselves in sudden need. And, individually, we ask you to consider donating blood as an act of stewardship if you are able.  As seen on the news, the blood shortage is critical at this time.

 

In-person, public worship is suspended for now. We are still the Church. 

 

Faithfully,

 

Your Stewardship Ministry Team and Vestry

March 13th Letter from Fr. Paul

March 13, 2020

 

Dear friends in Christ,

Our Gospel reading today from Morning Prayer seems timely. It was Mark’s narrative of Jesus stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee with the words, “Peace! Be still!” We are living in a highly anxious time as COVID-19 spreads, officially having been declared a global pandemic. As the Body of Christ, we proclaim a message of hope for all who believe. We know that our God is the God who brings the dead to life and that because of the hope of the resurrection, death is not to be feared for those who put their whole hope and trust—their faith—in Christ. We also value the preciousness of life and its preservation. That is why we are operating in compliance with guidelines issued by the CDC and our Governor in efforts to slow community spread and “flatten the curve” with COVID-19. By now you have received our bishop’s direction, along with the joint statement of all Episcopal and ELCA bishops of Michigan, to suspend in-person public worship for the remainder of March. As a priest under obedience to my bishop, I fully intend to follow her direction and had a conference call with the church Wardens last night to discuss our plans for the next few weeks. This letter explains what will happen in our congregation for at least the next few weeks.

We will still worship…differently.

While there will be no in-person public worship held at St. George’s, we will still worship in the Prayer Book tradition on the Lord’s Day. At 9:00 AM on Sundays, I will livestream Morning Prayer via Facebook live. A bulletin will be emailed to you and you are invited to follow along and pray with your fellow parishioners. The bulletins will also be posted on Facebook and the parish website. I encourage you to participate live, but still want you to pray Morning Prayer at a convenient time by either watching the video and praying along or keeping that time of prayer individually.

On weekdays, I will continue to livestream the Daily Office along with our weekday schedule to the best of my ability. I also ask that you join me daily at noon in praying The Great Litany and the Supplication. The supplication is especially appropriate in times of anxiety, such as this, and calls our souls to the Lord’s deliverance from all adversity.

Unfortunately, this means that our episcopal visitation from Bishop Perry will have to be rescheduled.

Corned Beef Dinner

Our corned beef dinner sadly needs to be cancelled. The food that was purchased to cook corned beef and cabbage is being donated to the feeding ministry at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Howell. Donating food to the most vulnerable in our society is the most appropriate Christian response to the need to cancel our fellowship dinner. Donations for tickets to the dinner can either be refunded or donated to outreach. Please notify our Parish Administrator with your preference.

Small Groups, Ministry Teams, and Vestry

Small group gatherings, such as our Wednesday evening Lenten Bible study will continue as scheduled. I ask that you come and participate if you are comfortable. There will be one change to the Lenten program. Rather than the soup and salad super, I ask that people bring their own meals. We will still break bread together, but we will mitigate risk by not preparing meals for one another or self-serving with common utensils. We will follow the social distancing guidelines that the government have provided. Ministry Teams can decide whether they still wish to meet. I encourage you to do so, following the guidelines that we have received. Our Vestry will still meet on Wednesday, March 25th and bring their own meals.

The Office and Building

Per Bishop Perry’s instruction, business as usual will carry on in the office and building throughout the week other than corporate worship. However, I am instructing Parish Administrator, Michelle Metry to work from home starting Tuesday, March 17th because she is immunocompromised and part of the more vulnerable population in the midst of this pandemic. You can reach her via her work email, office@stgeorgesmilford.org.  I will continue to be present from Tuesday through Friday. Understand that this will change if my daughter’s daycare closes. I would encourage you to call before coming to the office if you wish to meet with me in case work has taken me away, as it often does.

Pastoral and Sacramental Needs

My call as your Rector is for the care and cure of souls. I will be available to care for your pastoral and sacramental needs as best I can with the guidelines we have received. Please do not hesitate to call me on my cell phone, (248)709-4665, if you need me to come to you. Please know that seven parishioners are currently in six different medical or senior living facilities. As of yesterday, I have received confirmation that all of those facilities, excluding American House and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, are on lockdown, accepting no visitors. I ask that you keep our brothers and sisters in Christ in your prayers. Please call them, send them cards, and do everything you can to help them feel connected to our parish community while they are not able to receive visitors. If you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to call me.

This truly is a trying time, my friends. Remember, Jesus stilled the storm. This storm will be stilled. Let us take this opportunity to grow even more steadfast in our faithfulness and rest in the finished work of Jesus. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that this community stays connected and that our mission and ministry may continue to grow and flourish as these protocols come to an end. We should all be prepared as Christians to respond to people’s needs as they arise. Be ready to help the elders of our congregation, should they need assistance acquiring food or any other necessities. Be prepared to contribute to financial relief for anyone in our congregation who may face financial difficulties.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Paul

© 2020    Saint George's Episcopal Church                                          248-684-0495

                 801 East Commerce Street, Milford, MI  48381                  office@stgeorgesmilford.org

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