March 13, 2020 | Resources by Father John Tober
Dear St. James’ family—
We are experiencing something virtually unprecedented in the lifetimes of many of us. I fear we are at the leading edge of a very difficult and dangerous time for many of our church family. I’ve been thinking hard about how we can best remain safe, and close, and worship God while supporting one another and our community.
At the moment (8pm, 3/12/2020), this is the situation. The governor has declared a public health emergency in the state. There are 6 presumed confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the northern part of New Mexico—Socorro, Bernalillo, and Santa Fe Counties. There are no known cases in Dona Ana or El Paso counties. Included in the announcement is the advice not to attend large (100+) public gatherings, including church services. The state has also ordered schools closed for at least 3 weeks. As such, it is likely that Eric may not be in the office, but will likely manage a number of tasks from home. He is still available using the office email address, . Please also feel free to contact me by email at , or on my cell phone at (575) 840-2636. I’d suggest a text message is safer than a voice call. Please be sure to tell me who you are and include the date/time in the message, as sometimes my phone is wonky.
The response of our diocesan leadership can be found online at: https://drgresponds.squarespace.com/. Given this guidance from the diocese, we will suspend public worship beginning this Sunday, March 15th. We shouldn’t look at this as an abandonment of us by the church, but an opportunity for growth. We’ll update the phone message and post updates on our website (primarily) and Facebook page (secondarily). If you know people who don’t regularly receive email/phone/other messages from the church, please forward this and also let us know so we can update our directory. In the meantime:
- Consider experiencing worship privately or through technology.
o We will explore how we can livestream and/or post worship services through our Facebook page (search for St James Episcopal Church Las Cruces NM and follow us!), or website (https://stjameslascruces.org/), and on Youtube. While services may not be available immediately at 8:00 or 10:30 on Sunday, we’ll do our best to get them posted ASAP.
o I always post my sermons on my blog at https://setunderauthority.wordpress.com/ Feel free to read, share & follow.
- This is a wonderful opportunity to explore worship beyond our liturgy. While the gospels frequently tell us of Jesus’ visits in synagogues and the Temple of Jerusalem, Jesus also served God beyond the walls.
o We’re reaching out to local school communities to inquire how kids who rely on free or reduced-price meals at school can be served, and how we can live into this need while abiding by the limitations we have placed on us by the state. Our mission is to serve others beyond our doors. When we have a plan to do this work, we’ll roll out the plan. If others have ideas how small groups can safely minister to our city, please speak up! There will be lots of work to do.
o Let’s also connect more closely with our own church family. The vestry is working on a phone tree already. We’ll distribute that, as well as the most recent copy of the church directory as soon as possible. Our hope is that each of us will take the time to reach out and check on friends, as well as develop new friendships by phone… or text message, or email, etc.
o Perhaps consider forming a small-group bible study or book study, and for communal prayer time. There are many resources to aid in such an endeavor.
Our ultimate responsibility is to trust in God during this crisis. I don’t know what God has in store for St. James, or why this is happening, but I do trust that God has our best interest at heart. During the first Gulf War, I was introduced to the soldiers’ psalm, Psalm 91. (Feel free to explore the BCP and locate it on pg. 719) It begins:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
Abides under the shadow of the Almighty.
He shall say to the LORD, “You are my refuge and my stronghold,
My God in whom I put my trust.”
He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter
And from the deadly pestilence.
He shall cover you with his pinions, and you shall find refuge under his wings;
His faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler.(vs 1-4)
Above all, there is no need to panic or lose focus on the font of our grace. Let us keep our trust in God and that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “God is nearer to us than our own soul” and loves us all dearly. Through God, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” We will come through this crisis together.
I look forward to the conclusion of this crisis, when we can once again fellowship in person as a community.
In His name,