[March 23, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new video meditation will be posted on Mondays through May.
Now available: Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry‘s weekly “Habits of Grace” meditations during the #COVID19 outbreak have been built into a new limited-series podcast offering from The Episcopal Church. Simply search “Habits of Grace” in your favorite podcast player, or follow one of the links below to popular apps.
(You can also simply ask your smart device to “Play Habits of Grace Podcast”)
Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/…/habits-of-grace-w…/id1503355070
Hello. This past week I came across two passages, one from the Bible, one a poem. The one in the Bible, I was just reading through parts of Matthew’s gospel and was reading through the Sermon on the Mount and got to chapter seven where Jesus says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
In this time when we are all called to physically distance from each other, physical, not social, but physical isolation for the good of each other. I’m mindful of the words of Jesus when he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Maybe that’s a frame for having to live in a time of physical isolation.
The other thing that I came across was a poem. It was in an email from Thistle Farms, a ministry that many of us know, led by Becca Stevens. It was a poem called Pandemic*. It’s by a poet named Lynn Ungar, who’s also an ordained minister, and in the poem she says:
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has become clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
Have a blessed week. God love you and keep the faith.
*Used with permission of the author.
The Mission of St. James is to become a thriving community of faith; loving God and our neighbors.
March 13, 2020
The rise of a public health crisis brought on by coronavirus is something new for me to behold.
I was talking with my mother last week about all of this, and she said that she could remember as a little girl, in her small town in Mississippi, strong measures taken in response to the spread of polio. She remembers the quarantines, the isolation, the separation, the fear. She also remembers the feeling of “we’re all in this together,” and the caring, and the looking out for neighbor, and the expressions of love. Difficulties and adversity, while none of us wishes for them, they nonetheless seem to always bring out the best in people. It’s what I call grace. God’s grace. Here’s an interesting article about some sociologists who studied this one time:
In Pre-K Chapel this week, one of the 4-year-old students knocked me on my heels with a couple of probing questions about God. His final question to me was, “why can’t we see God?” Still surprised by his insightful questions, I stammered, “well God is all around us, God is in the heavenly realms, God is right here with us.” And then I regained my footing and I said, “and God is in you, and in me. Where do I see God? I see God in YOU!”
Officials tell us we have likely not seen the worst of coronavirus in this country. But, as people of faith, we understand that we are not alone in this. We of course “are in this together,” with one another, and that is comforting. We are also “in this together” with God. And that is reassuring. God never leaves us. God never abandons us. And God has given us one another, to shoulder the holy work of love. And in this public health challenge, love will continue to abound. I encourage you to continue to reach out to others in love. Limit your face to face visits with people (as will I, Fr. Matt and Fr. Tom, except for those most necessary pastoral situations), but call them, email them, text them, check in on them, look out for them. Let them see God in you.
As Episcopalians, we are keenly aware that God made us with fantastic brains, able to think and reason, and we believe it is ok to use them. And our brains are telling us things we need to do to be safe (washing hands, wiping down surfaces, staying home if we’re sick, etc.). Our brains also tell us that, for the time being, we should not gather together in large groups. If we do, the virus will spread and our health care system will be overwhelmed. We Christians must do our part in helping to mitigate the spread of this virus.
Accordingly, our bishop has directed that we not gather for worship for the next 2 weeks. See the link to his letter explaining this action. This is a dramatic action and it pains our bishop to issue this directive. But, he understands that it is necessary, and that we must do our part in combating the spread of coronavirus.
This does not mean we cannot worship for the next 2 weeks! We Episcopalians are people of the book – The Book of Common Prayer. There are daily office services each of us can utilize alone and in our families. See the link to the online Book of Common Prayer and a link to a web page developed by Susan Robinson, our Parish Administrator, with resources for worship, including a link to the National Cathedral. Also, I will be offering various services on line in the coming days. Check your email often for notices of services and other information.
The parish office remains open. The Academy is not in session (see the Head of School’s letter closing school) but the sextons will be working diligently to clean the building. The church will be deep-cleaned on Monday, March 16th.
As always, I am available by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and by cell phone (434-249-3868). Please reach out with any questions or concerns. Pray for one another, our leaders, health care providers, and all who are affected by coronavirus. And know that I hold you in prayer as we go forward together in love.
Joseph M. Cochran, Rector
PS Check the website later in the day March 13th for worship offerings.
Head of School Letter
March 12, 2020
Dear St. James Academy Families,
We continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and take the safety and well being of all members of the St. James community very seriously. This afternoon Governor Hogan and state officials announced that Maryland public schools will be closed March 16 through March 27. In accordance with the state’s decision as well as the recommendation from AIMS Executive Director, Peter Baily, SJA will also close for that time frame. Our COVID-19 Task Force team continues to meet and evaluate new information as it becomes available and will make a decision if we need to close for a longer period of time.
Tomorrow, our faculty will use the time to prepare and plan accordingly for the extended closure and ensure that our academic program will continue. Our goal is to have as little learning disruption as possible and continued education for your child. I am confident that our dedicated faculty and staff will maintain our high standard of learning for your child. For students in grades 5-8, we sent home laptops/Chromebooks, and students in grades PreK-4 took home packets prepared by their teachers. We will provide more specifics about our Distance Learning Plan in the coming days. Families should be prepared to access virtual learning as early as March 23.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me.
I wish you a healthy and safe Spring Break.
Charlotte S. Riggs
Head of School