First a word of warning from our Senior Warden, Manny Terrazas.
Several St. James’ members have had their email accounts hacked and have had messages sent out without their knowledge.
Read all emails you receive carefully. Be aware of any odd phrasing. If it looks suspicious do not respond.
Change your email password frequently.
And now a few words from Father John.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:35, 38-39
Dear St. James’ Family—
Wow! June is upon us, already. The end of the month brings my first anniversary with you; and honestly, this isn’t how I pictured it. I rather expected Amy and I would offer flowers for the altar and we’d have a cake in the parish hall. I expected the world and nation would continue healing from its wounds and we would all go on enjoying a quiet, healthy, happy life together.
Well so far (knock on wood), we have the healthy part, and the quiet bit. The rest—well, not so much. Our world and nation continue to self-inflict wounds and I (and I expect we) feel like my head is spinning as I confront one thing after another. The supposed Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” is certainly fulfilling itself!
While we self-isolate, many of us feel cut off from our normal routines and patterns. I know for many church-goers, the loss of opportunity to come to the church building for solace and quiet is a difficult sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice we have needed to make to fulfill the commandment to love God and our neighbors as ourselves.
I especially appreciate the patience our community has shown as the vestry and I have reacted to the ever-changing requirements and restrictions placed on us by the diocese and the state. Even though I haven’t been able to keep hours in my office at church, the work has continued, and has actually ballooned, with meetings online among diocesan clergy; actual meetings with Eric, our parish administrator to set the agenda for each week, rather than just poking heads in doorways; meetings with the vestry (in whole or individuals). Days often end wondering what I’ve accomplished besides attending meetings.
That’s one reason why I asked the vestry and volunteers to help maintain contact with members of the parish by phone. It always seems that between meetings and preparing for liturgy—and learning how to deal with recording liturgy and broadcasting services—my days just disappear.
However, it looks like some incremental changes are on the horizon. The executive committee and I have been working on the diocese’s request for information about what we are doing now to safeguard the parish and parishioners from becoming a hotspot of infection. And we’ve been working to fulfill the guidelines the state and diocese have established to begin opening the doors of the parish again. I still don’t have a clear picture of what this will look like, though there are indicators. While New Mexico has loosened restrictions on houses of worship, allowing up to 25% capacity to attend, we still have the 6 ft social distancing perimeter to contend with. The strategy approved by the diocese (to begin planning for corporate worship) is allowing a family unit in about every 3rd row of pews. This might sound like a fair amount of people, but it actually means about 6 pews; and a family unit is defined as people living together in the same dwelling. So, for many of us, that means only 1 or 2 people. Therefore, a church service could be as many as 24 people, or as few as 6, depending on which families attend.
But there are other things to consider. We also need to practice prophylaxis—we need to wear masks and gloves to mitigate the spread of disease, as much as possible. Well, what happens if someone comes to church without them? We’ll have to keep a stock of each on hand. How do we take communion while wearing a mask? We also need to clean and sanitize before and after services. Who does that? If we pay someone, where will the money come from? If we ask volunteers, how are organized, trained, and supplied? These and other questions we’re still working on.
There are lots of details we need to work out for services and for everyday life. To begin this transition, I’ve presented our Phase 1 practices to the diocese, and the executive committee and I are working through the phase 2 requirements. I’ve asked Bp. Hunn for permission to return to my office on a limited basis. One facet of this requires Eric and me to maintain distance. So, Eric will plan to be on campus Monday & Tuesday and I’ll be there Wednesday & Thursday. It’s been suggested that people may be more willing to call into the office than to call my cell. Of course, either is perfectly acceptable. However, as soon as I receive permission, I expect to be in the office on Wednesdays to prepare for and record the Wednesday evening service, and on Thursdays to prepare for and record our Sunday service.
Again, I know this time is a hardship. I feel the distress of separation from our community as you do. But even in our physical separation from one another, I know that the mutual love we share in Christ continues and abounds. It may take a little more work to see it and feel it, but nothing can separate us from the love of Christ
With many blessings,