During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are sadly unable to worship together in person. Please read, A Word to the Church on Our Theology of Worship from the Presiding Bishop, for more thoughts about the theology of worship in the Anglican tradition. Please scroll down the page for the most recent updates from our Bishop, and Mother Barnes.
COVID-19 Updates and Pastoral Letters from Bp. Kevin and Mother Barnes
May 19, 2020
Dear St. Luke’s parish family and friends,
Below is a message from the Diocese of Bethlehem and Bishop Kevin detailing guidelines for Phase II.
As Lackawanna County is one of the Pennsylvania counties still in the red phase, we remain under a Stay at Home Order through June 4. The Vestry and I will continue to closely monitor the status of our county and review the guidelines as put forth by the Diocese. When it is safe to move toward reopening we will submit our plan to the Bishop, as required, and take every precaution to assure the safety of all.
Life in the Church will be different, to be sure, and at some point we will once again be able to worship together in-person. In the meantime, we will continue to live stream and hold Zoom gatherings.
In this most unusual time, things are challenging, but be assured we remain held in God’s love and grace, and there is indeed nothing, that can separate us from the love of God.
Message from Bishop Kevin: Phase II Guidelines
Read a transcript of the message below.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” -Jeremiah 29:1
We heard this familiar passage from Jerimiah at our first Diocesan Convention together in 2018. How poignant these words remain in the midst of this pandemic.
We also invoked Joshua, another Old Testament prophet that day:
“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
Translated another way, “Be fearless and undaunted.”
I come to you this day in the hopeful and prayerful spirit of the prophets, recognizing that this moment—this time—demands that we be strong and courageous, fearless and undaunted.
Today, I offer guidance for our churches as we begin to enter Phase II and start to imagine ourselves gathering in-person.
The document that accompanies this video was developed after extensive consultation and input. Insights from the wider church; the CDC, as well as local medical experts; insights from other Episcopal Dioceses and denominations like our Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Moravian brothers and sisters; and in consultation with our Diocesan Leadership bodies. Diocesan Council and the Standing Committee affirmed these guidelines on May 14.
We are so grateful for the feedback and wisdom of so many. And let me add that three principals also guided the development of our guidelines:
1. The empowerment of every leadership body is essential. These guidelines were designed with the understanding that each congregation knows its particular context best. We have offered best practices and questions for you and your vestry to answer. This is not a prescriptive, top down plan or directive.
2. Congregations should determine their own timeline for gathering in-person that fits their local context. Let me emphasize – You should not reopen if you are not ready! Work at your own pace. The safety of all members is our first priority. And our learnings are ongoing and fluid. Adapting to new understandings from medical experts and other leaders must be expected.
3. This process must remain rooted in partnership. Beginning May 26th we will offer Zoom gatherings in each of the eight new Convocations of the diocese. Each clergyperson and Senior Warden serving a parish are invited to participate. We also ask that you consider inviting an additional member to join this call.
Our experience of recent Convocation gatherings with clergy and lay leaders is that a wonderful sharing of resources and relationship-building occurs when we work together.
“Be strong and courageous (fearless and undaunted); do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Hold on to these words. Know of my love. Be assured of my continued prayers. And, I so look forward to being with you soon.
Message from Bishop Kevin: Phase Approach to Re-gathering
Read a transcript of the message below, or view the PowerPoint presentation.
Surrender! Have you surrendered, yet?
As many of you heard me say in the cathedral live stream Easter Sunday – this particular moment is one where we are called to let go and trust in the Risen Christ –despite our best instincts to do it alone (or there cannot be survival without surrender!)–we must walk together knowing that God walks with us on this journey as well.
This is what the Easter season is about – our thinking anew as to how we are to reach out and bring Christ’s love to a world so desperately in need. This crisis offers us an opportunity to lean into our ethical responsibility for the common good and to address the growing inequalities that that this pandemic has exposed.
I have heard from so many of you just how jarring it is to not be able to gather in community with others. I hear your longing for the Eucharist. I yearn for that time when we will be together again in celebration. And yet, I am so heartened by your innovative spirit – by the ways you are gathering together virtually in coffee hours, Bible studies, creative prayer and worship opportunities and other fellowship moments to stay connected. I’ve heard story after story of people who have overcome their fears of technology to reach out!
Many are anxious and wondering how and when we will return to gathering in-person for fellowship and worship. At this time, I’m calling on all congregations to remain closed to all in-person worship. We must continue to rely on our medical professionals to ensure that we return when we are safely able and have all the proper precautions in place. And though we have been longing for a specific and set date that we could look forward to—when things would suddenly go back to “normal’—what has become clear is that the events that surround us are much too complex to provide us that kind of certainty.
Rather, we are working with the Presiding Bishop’ office, other dioceses, similar organizations and diocesan leadership bodies to develop a phase approach for return.
A phase approach means that we do not set dates for when we return to worshipping in-person, but instead look at the circumstances surrounding us to decide what actions we should be taking in the present, and what actions we should take in the future when circumstances change. With guidelines from the United States and commonwealth governments, and other experts in the field of health, we have created a set of phases that describe appropriate church protocols based on health characteristics in our communities. Our goal is to continue to “be church” safely in every circumstance.
We are currently in Phase I, which is characterized by:
• Widespread community spread of the virus
• Overtaxed health system
• Short medical supply
• Lack of availability of vaccine, therapeutics, and counter measures
• Lack of protective supplies (e.g. gloves, masks, sanitizer) for general public
As long as these characteristics remain, we will continue to be in Phase I, which requires the following protocols:
• Gathering for online worship, formation, and community
• Limiting service ministries to safe protocols dedicated to essentials such as feeding ministries
Once the situation improves, and we see the following changes:
• Fewer than 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people for at least 14 days.
• Safe treatment of all patients requiring hospitalization without resorting to crisis standards of care
• Testing all people with COVID-19 symptoms
• Active monitoring of confirmed cases and their contacts
• Case-Based Interventions including quarantine while awaiting test results, traced relationships over 14 days, and quarantine for close contacts with diagnostic testing
We will enter Phase II, which means we can adopt the following protocols:
• Church offices open in spaces large enough for physical distancing (in consultation with the bishop)
• Continued online worship, formation, and community
• Small church worship under 25 may restart in spaces large enough for physical distancing (in consultation with the bishop)
• Continued health safety protocols:
• Wear masks
• Wash hands
• Sanitize frequently
• More specific guidelines will follow once Phase II health characteristics are closer to being met.
Once the situation improves so that there is:
• Negative community spread
• Global vaccination
• Widespread therapeutic availability
• Comprehensive testing for virus and immunity
We will enter Phase III, where we will adopt the following protocols:
• Church offices opened
• Missional and administrative capacities created
• Worship in churches
• Increased small group gathering
• Increased missional gathering
• Continued online worship, formation, and community
• Continued pastoral calling
• Return to service ministries with addition of new community relationships
For more information about all the phases, you can visit diobeth.org/COVID19.
Though it can be difficult to no longer operate with a specific “date-to-open” in mind, this phase approach allows us to safely and effectively plan for the future. And the lessons we learn in our current phase will help us be a more resilient, loving, and missional church in the future.
Please know that you all remain in my thoughts and prayers and that I need to hear from you. Please continue to reach out to our Diocesan Staff, particularly the Rev. Megan Dembi, if you have specific questions about our phased return to worship and ministry.
Know of my love for you, and that I, diocesan staff, and your friends and colleagues are available to support you through this time. For I am convinced that it is only together that we can walk through this moment and through this moment we will discover that God is building something we cannot yet fully see or know.
A note from Mother Barnes regarding recent worship changes.
Updated April 2, 2020
Dear St. Luke’s family and friends,
We find ourselves in an unprecedented time. The past
In times like these we need to put aside our own self-interests and work together for the good of everyone. Every major religious tradition teaches some form of the golden rule, that is, “do on to others as you would have them do unto you.”
Recently, The Most Reverend Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church noted that while Christians are in the season of Lent, and while this is not the fast that we expected, it’s important that we take time to fast from our public gatherings and worship, and socially distance in an effort to really exercise the words of Jesus who taught that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.
After careful consideration of the advice given by government and healthcare professionals, as well as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and other local bishops and faith leaders, Bishop Kevin Nichols called upon all churches in the diocese to continue to suspend in-person gatherings of any size, including worship, through Holy Week and Easter. As of today, the suspension has been extended to May 3.
That means that all operations at St. Luke’s will remain suspended for the next month, including Holy Week and Easter.
While we are closed for public assembly, I believe we can make the best of this situation. Therefore, we will be streaming worship services, particularly the Daily Office, and offering opportunities for electronic gatherings via ZOOM. This will include adult ed, centering prayer, and meetings, e.g.
This is not how we would prefer to do this, particularly as we are entering our most sacred liturgical season, but I think we can take this as an opportunity to explore new opportunities. What is most important is that we are able to be together and remain spiritually connected.
To that end, we have organized a “buddy system” in the parish and will be reaching out regularly to check-in and connect with you.
I pray that in this time of anxiety and isolation, you will honor your feelings, reach out for help if you need it, and reach out to others around you. Sometimes just calling someone, offering to run to the grocery store if they’re not able, or offering to do some other small deeds can make a whole world of difference in someone’s life.
What is most important though is that we love and honor and respect one another by taking this time to distance to allow the pandemic to hopefully mitigate, and to give our health professionals and medical facilities all the support we can by not doing things that will exacerbate the spread of this virus.
Please know that you are in my prayers and I am available for pastoral calls. Together, and with God’s grace, we will get through this.
In Christ’s peace, I remain faithfully yours,
The Reverend Rebecca A. Barnes