March 24, 2020
Dear Faithful People of the Diocese of South Carolina,
The suspension of all public worship services, meetings, and gatherings in the Diocese of South Carolina has been extended to April 30, 2020. We deeply regret that this suspension extends into and beyond Holy Week and Easter celebrations. However, we are confident that our congregations and worship communities will rise to the challenges and opportunities that come with this unprecedented time.
In addition to the extended suspension of all public worship services, meetings, and gatherings, all Deanery Confirmations with Bishop Parsley and the annual Clergy Conference have been postponed.
The appropriate pastoral response will need to be considered when the need arises for clergy to offer sacramental and pastoral rites. In all cases, consideration and respect should be given to what has been requested by local, state, and federal authorities and the Centers for Disease Control.
We continue to encourage the people of the diocese to use the resources on our COVID-19 Response webpage.
The clergy of the diocese gathered via Zoom on Monday, March 23, to pray together and check in with each other. There was fruitful and holy conversation shared amongst us. It is clear to me that with God’s abiding love and the leadership of our faithful clergy, the diocese is in good hands.
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.
The Reverend Canon Caleb J. Lee
President of the Standing Committee
Our 8:30 Am service
has been suspended.
Please check back here
for links to worship services.
The Lord is My Shepherd
Fr. Michael Shaffer
Last week my message to you was titled, The Times They are A-Changin. I knew conditions created by the pandemic would worsen, but the speed with which the government mandated changes have come and the extent to which much of the decision making has been taken out of our hands, is breathtaking.
Last week the World Health Organization first declared a worldwide pandemic due to the spread of COVID-19. Those at particularly high risk for development of life-threatening complications should they acquire the virus and those over 60 years of age, were being encouraged to limit “public” activities and everyone was asked to follow “social distancing guidelines” published by the Center for Disease Control. Faith communities were still having differences about whether to share the Common Cup or hold public worship services. It seemed even in the face of the inevitable impending deterioration of our worldwide situation, which many did not want to face, everyone wanted to maintain control, or at least the illusion of control.
Today, one week later, governmental orders for people to “shelter in place” (stay at home!) are commonplace in major metropolitan areas throughout the nation, with more restrictive mandatory orders being issued by both Federal and local governments hourly. All levels of education have discontinued on campus schooling and many school districts throughout the country have cancelled classes for the remainder of the school year. All the major religions of the world have discontinued in person worship services and our own Presiding Bishop yesterday issued a communique suspending in-person gatherings for public worship, in most contexts, during our most sacred time of year, Holy Week and Easter Day. Remarkably, Pope Francis announced that the Vatican Easter services will be held without the public for the first time, ever. Indeed, The Times They are A-Changin.
This past Sunday, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was the homilist at a worship service live streamed from the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. He was not present personally but rather participated remotely from his home. This is how we too must gather and participate in the coming days and weeks, perhaps months. Bishop Curry’s message was profound as always. “Maybe love really is the way. God's love, and our lived love for each other”, Bishop Curry preached. “Love can heal and help when nothing else can. Love can lift up and liberate when nothing else will.”
Bishop Curry always reminds us of the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus. So, as we continue our Lenten journey, even as we are distracted by transforming life conditions, let us be transformed by the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus. Remember that the journey through Lent into Easter is a journey with Jesus. It is a journey of love and He is with us!
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that all who believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. As our Presiding Bishop reminds us, that kind of love must be contagious, and that kind of contagious love can change the world. We will fight this particular contagion and all of our preexisting social contagions and divisions by the disciplined labor of love that spills over from sacrificial love Christ spilled for us on the cross. Love working through medical experts, love working through leaders both secular and religious, love working through each one of us, doing even something as small as voluntarily worshiping God online instead of in person, if that might help somebody else.
At a time like this it is easy to focus on our fears and vulnerabilities. We are also emotional beings and being at a distance from one another during times of uncertainly will naturally exacerbate our anxieties. So, providing a small taste of this Sunday’s sermon message, let me share the one small but powerful sentence in this Sunday’s appointed scripture readings that gives me strength every day. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
My friends, in the midst of this challenging time we all have much to be grateful for. We are baptized into the life and death of the One who promises we will rise in hope to life transformed. This Lent, we are invited to walk with Jesus in his Way of Love and into the experience of transformed life, in ways we never before could possibly have imagined.
Anxiety comes from obsessing over the wrong things—our immediate issues and asking the wrong questions. What if this happens? And what if that happens? Those questions breed anxiety, worry, and fear, because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, only God does. Some ask, where is God in all of this? God is with us. While we have been focused for weeks on the illusion of control, God is carefully and sovereignly in control of it all, seeking as always, only our co-operation. He is our ever-present help in time of need.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
A Message from Fr. Michael
A Note from the Archdeacon:
As we absorb the reality that the coronavirus is now a full-fledged pandemic, we remember who and whose we are. Amid all the changes and chances of this mortal life, we can be assured of the sure and certain knowledge that we are the Lord’s—in this life and in the age to come. No matter what, we are the Lord’s—and our Lord Jesus knows each of us as his very own. He loves us as his own very Body, which we are.
Each year during Lent, we, like Jesus, are thrust into the wilderness—a place of uncertainty, disorientation, fear, and at times, even danger. We now find ourselves cast into a new kind of wilderness, that of our unsteady and confusing world. We can take great heart, though, as we give thanks for the precious gift of one another, and the opportunity to respond in love and with calm and clear-eyed faith in the One who loves us and gave himself for us. As Canon Caleb says: Be smart…Love the Lord, and love your neighbor.
Blessings to you,
The Venerable Calhoun Walpole
Archdeacon, The Diocese of South Carolina
A word to the Church regarding Holy Week and Easter Day from the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church issued Tuesday, March 17, 2019:
Dear People of God,
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
These affirmations are at the very heart of our faith as followers of Jesus Christ.
In public services of Holy Week and Easter we solemnly contemplate, commemorate, and rededicate our lives as witnesses to life made possible in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Together with Christmas, Holy Week and Easter are the holiest of days in our life together in Christ.
Last week I stated publicly my support for bishops who, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, decide “for a designated period of time . . . to cancel in-person gatherings for public worship.” I write now concerning the need to suspend in-person gatherings for public worship, in most contexts, during the sacred time of Holy Week and Easter Day. Because this is a global health crisis, the principles in this letter apply throughout The Episcopal Church, including beyond the United States.
On March 15th the Centers for Disease Control recommended the suspension of public gatherings in the U.S. of more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks. On March 16th officials of the federal government asked persons in the U.S. to “avoid gatherings of more than 10 people” for the next 15 days. It is reasonable to assume that some form of recommendations restricting public gatherings will continue for some time.
Considering this changing landscape, I believe that suspension of in-person public worship is generally the most prudent course of action at this time, even during Holy Week and on Easter Day. I am also mindful that local situations vary. Bishops must make this determination and the duration of said suspension in their respective dioceses, based on the public health situation in their context and the recommendations or requirements of government agencies and officials.
It is important to emphasize that suspension of in-person gatherings is not a suspension of worship. I very much encourage and support online worship.
In the Gospels, the teachings of Jesus about the way of love cluster during Holy Week and Easter (see John 13-17, Matthew 22:34-40). The primacy of love in the Gospels is given its fullest expression in the shadow of the cross. This way of unselfish, sacrificial love, the way of the cross, is the way of God and the way of life.
It is out of this love for our fellow humans, our neighbors, that we forego the blessing of being physically together for worship. In so doing we seek to promote health and healing needed at this time.
God bless you and keep the faith,
The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
In The Episcopal Church, we strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and respect the dignity of every person.