Note: Fr Steven sent this as an email to the parish on September 8. We are posting it here, and on our parish page on the Coronavirus.
Dear Parish Faithful,
March 8 - September 8
Today is the Feast Day of the Nativity of the Theotokos. Yesterday evening we celebrated the Vesperal Liturgy, and attendance was rather thin (because of Labor Day?). Be that as it may, it is truly a joyous feast as we annually greet the birth of Miriam of Nazareth - arguably the most well-known woman in history - with a festal celebration. Her nativity announces her ultimate destiny as the Theotokos or "God-bearer." For those who would like to study this in greater depth during the time of the feast (September 8-12), here is a link to our wonderful resource page on our parish website:
September 8 is also exactly six calendar months from our last full Liturgy in the church on March 8, the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Later that day, we gathered for the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church; but from that day forward we entered the "pandemic era" of national, social, and ecclesiastical life. Hard to believe that for this last Holy Week and Pascha there were only three of us in the church. Yet, to sound upbeat, we now have ten times that number in church - a sign of some progress - but we continue to be restricted as we hopefully await further expansion of our worshipers as time unfolds. (A further hope is that we do not experience a Labor Day induced "spike" of the coronavirus).
My pastoral hope is that the exhortation of the Apostle Paul, heard at last Sunday's Liturgy, continues to resonate in our minds and hearts: "Be watchful, be firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." (I Cor. 16:13-14) As I said at the Liturgy, herein is the whole moral, ethical and spiritual teaching of the Gospel distilled into this short exhortation of the great Apostle. It is meant for all Christians at all times, but these words should resonate all the more as we remain "watchful" during our current health crisis. The deepest truth is that if we live, or if we die, we remain with Christ: "For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, 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 or Lord." (Rom. 8:38-39) The upcoming Feast Day of the Elevation of the Cross will further reinforce this profoundly consoling passage of the Apostle Paul.
Within the ongoing life of the parish, we now have a new sign-up system for you to employ so as to be as regular as possible in being present at the Liturgy on Sunday mornings and feast days. This is now easily accessed from the home page of our parish website. In the process, let's try not to forget the service of Great Vespers on Saturday evenings and on the eve of most feasts. I was hoping that since we are facing the current restrictions, that many of you would be eager to be in church and worshiping, and Great Vespers offers us that opportunity. That has not materialized so far, and that is rather disappointing. Getting back to the Liturgy, please keep Confession in mind. We are back to in-church confession, done in such a way that we practice the required social distancing.
- We will continue to make all the services available at least for "viewer participation" through both zoom and facebook. I believe that the reception and consistency on both are much improved.
- We will further continue with periodic ongoing "Orthodox Zoom Classes." We recently had a lengthy Bible Study and we will soon have a three-part session on I Cor. 15 and the resurrection from the dead. In the Fall, I am looking forward to choosing a book for our Fall Adult Education Class.
- We are currently gathering data for a desired resumption of our Church School life. The goal would be to meet on Saturdays twice a month in the church hall and Education Center, again keeping social distancing in mind. Parents will very soon be contacted about this. The success of restoring the Church School to some measure will depend on the commitment of the parents and children.
- I realize that we continue to have a fair number of parishioners who are not ready to return to liturgical worship. If that is the case, then I encourage you to avail yourselves of the items just listed above. That will help keep you connected. I also offered another method of receiving the Eucharist recently. Please get back with me if that will work for you.
- And all of us need to continue our prayer life and scripture reading at home.
March 8 - September 8 is not exactly the "six month anniversary" that will warm one's heart, but it is reality as we know it today. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives, and has caused fear, frustration and boredom, to mention just a few reactions that trouble us. But, as Orthodox Christians, let us "stand firm in the faith" as we await better times for our nation, our family and friends, and for our parish community.