Transcript of Bishop Provenzano's MARCH 20, 2020 Video Message
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today is Friday, March 20th and once again I address you from the Bishop's residence here in Garden City as we continue to live into social distancing as one of the many vehicles by which we are trying to combat the spread of the Coronavirus.
Just yesterday, I engaged in an hour-and-a-half-long Zoom meeting with a majority of the clergy of our diocese during which time we discussed all the various options available to us as God's people in trying to hold together our worship life and to be pastorally and emotionally supportive of one another as we confront this crisis.
Today, the governor of New York has announced a lockdown of all non-essential activities and many of the things that we discussed yesterday now need to change. To begin with, there will be a continuation of our moratorium of public liturgies in the churches of our diocese now until May 17th.
We are not going to be able to engage in any non-solitary outdoor activities, further editing the way in which we conduct liturgy such as the burial office and gravesides for those who have died. They're going to have to be kept at a minimum and we're going to have to find creative ways of afterwards--once we get past the crisis--of celebrating memorial liturgies for those who have died. It has become clear that the activities of recording liturgies and then putting them on the internet are going to have to be further edited as well. As of today, we're going to have to keep our churches closed. They can no longer be opened for people to come and visit and pray. That is part of the Governor's lockdown.
We're going to have to restrict the way in which liturgy is live-streamed. You know that it takes a gathering of people to celebrate the Eucharist, to proclaim the Word, to actually record the event, possibly with some music. Those activities now will have to also be suspended and only those activities, liturgies, and times of prayer that are solitary being recorded in someone's home and shared possibly by Zoom are going to be allowed moving forward.
We're going to have to make further adjustments in the way we interact with one another. I am loathe to think that we will not celebrate the Eucharist together on Easter day, but that is the reality that we are now facing. I do want to remind all of you that our theology calls forth in each of us an understanding of the true presence of Jesus in Word and Sacrament.
The structure of our Eucharistic celebration is the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Table. Jesus is present to us in the breaking open and sharing and preaching of the Word. And for this time of social distancing, this time of moratorium of being able to be together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist fully, we are going to have to adjust and understand that the presence of Jesus comes to us in the Word cracked open, broken, and shared even through the vehicles of the internet.
There will come a time when this crisis is over, when we will be able to gather together in celebrations of the Holy Eucharist in our churches, when we will celebrate those activities once again together. But for the good and safety of the people whom we serve, for the good and safety of each of us, we must fully live into this moratorium and live into social distancing in order to keep each other safe.
There are those who have raised with me the example of such heroic figures as the Martyrs of Memphis, who, in the 1918 health crisis that affected our nation, religious, clergy and lay volunteers, put their lives on the line in order to help those who were victimized by the plague. Today, our healthcare systems, although not always ideal, are well capacitated to care for all that are sick. Healthcare professionals now take the place of those heroic figures and I would remind you to hold them up in prayer daily. The doctors and nurses and the staffs of our hospitals, our care facilities who are day in and day out putting their own health on the line in order to care for God's people.
We were told today that our hospital system will need to increase its capacity by 50% in order to create care for those who may be coming seeking for help in the next 30 to 40 days, that there'll be a surge in cases. What they would ask us to do as God's people is to work against those numbers, to do everything possible, everything at our disposal to keep ourselves from becoming sick or further being the vehicle by which we spread illness to others and to cooperate heroically by staying apart, by living into the reality that we know that the one sure way of not spreading this virus is to keep from interacting with one another.
And so sisters and brothers, I ask you to be faithful to your calling to serve God's people. I ask you to be careful, to be safe, to keep praying, to be encouraging to one another. Use social media if it is at your disposal to stay in contact with your loved ones, your neighbors and friends and fellow parishioners. Use the internet, use your cell phones, use text messaging to reach out to those who may be lonely, those who are isolated because of this crisis, and if there are neighbors who do not have use of the internet or cell phones, find creative ways of being in touch with them. Call them on the phone and have a conversation. Offer a prayer, maybe even share a joke or two in order to encourage them in their loneliness.
Our diocese is providing all kinds of tools for home prayer through the links on our website. If you know someone who doesn't have access to the internet, download the material for them, print it out and find a creative way of leaving it on their doorstep or in their mailbox. Just make sure that you are protective of that interaction. Don't leave your fingerprints all over the paper being left at someone's door.
We can be creative, we can be joy-filled, we can be encouraging even in the midst of our fears, our solitude, our inability to share prayer with one another in person. And we can in fact be the church for and with one another even though for this time being, we cannot meet together in our church buildings.
I'm aware of the fact that there may be some in our diocese who disagree with our vigorous cooperation with the orders of our Governor and local officials. But I dare say that the most faithful way, the most holy way for us to combat this virus is for us, in fact, to be obedient to our life as the church, to put God's people, their safety, their needs before our own. And so I encourage the clergy and the lady of our diocese to embrace this moment, to step past our fears, and together, to be the church.
Let us pray.
Good and gracious God, surround us with your love and mercy. Encourage our witness to you. Steal away from us our fears and our anxieties that we may step forward in faith with and for one another in this time when we are apart. We raise up before you doctors and nurses and all the healthcare professionals who are doing their utmost to care for your people. Encourage and support them and allow them to know a full measure of your grace, and bless us, your church, your people gathered in our homes that we may be faithful to your call to serve in this instance by being apart. Gracious Lord, give us patience, give us courage, encourage our witness and this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
May God bless you. Be careful. Be safe. Keep praying. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.