12 Mar Bishop Orders Churches to Close
March 12, 2020
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:1,14)
Dear People of the Diocese of Maryland,
That which we sadly anticipated has happened: I am directing that all churches in the Diocese of Maryland must shut down public worship services beginning this Sunday, March 15.
Just yesterday I directed our congregations to remain open for services until further notice. At that same time, I stressed that we would follow the direction of government officials in these matters. This afternoon Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order that all public schools will closed until March 27. Given this news, worship services in our churches also will cease until March 27.
This coming Sunday, March 15, at 11:00 AM, I urge everyone to tune in to our National Cathedral for a virtual worship service with our presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, preaching. On Sunday, March 22, I will livestream worship for our diocese. We will publicize the link for that in the coming days.
In accordance with our message yesterday, we will cancel, postpone or offer in webinar form diocesan activities scheduled through March 27. These include:
- Open Doors: Conversations About Church Safety, March 19
- Union of Black Episcopalians Absalom Jones celebration, March 21
- Reparations workshop at St. Mary’s, Emmorton, March 22
- Compline workshop at Emmanuel, Baltimore, March 22
We will be in touch later about rescheduling and webinar opportunities.
However, smaller groups, such as Twelve Step groups and other outreach ministries, should continue to meet. We do not plan to close diocesan offices at this time, and you may reach me and our staff through the usual contact information.
We will continue to follow the recommendations of government officials regarding public spaces and gatherings. Remember that when we return to our worship spaces, all of the best practices I’ve recommended for “no-touch/low-touch” Eucharists and other best practices will still stand.
Please let us know how you’re doing. I encourage all congregations to let our communications team (firstname.lastname@example.org) know if you are hosting livestreamed prayers, formation or other activities that we may share with others around our diocese. In addition, let them know if you need help with technology in order to share to share the love of Christ, check in on each other and more. We are a community of love.
My friends, we are all in this together. We are not alone; the Holy Spirit will get us through this time of the coronavirus pandemic. Our prayer continues to be that of the old hymn, O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home. (The Hymnal, 680)
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop of Maryland
O God of compassion, giver of life and health, we pray your healing mercies upon all who are in any way affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Comfort and sustain those who have been stricken; relieve their pain, and restore to them your gifts of gladness and strength. Grant to all in authority the courage to make wise decisions that are essential for the common good, and strengthen them to lead institutions that care for those whom they serve. Watch over all first responders and those in the medical professions whose duty it is to care for the sick; guard them from all danger, and keep them safe in the knowledge that is through their sacrifice and service that the health of the whole community is promoted. Mercifully accept these our prayers, O God of all comfort, and our only help in time of need. Amen.