Earlier this week, we heard encouraging news about a COVID-19 vaccine that could begin to be available early next year in limited quantities. I give thanks for this source of hope, especially as the virus is now spreading at an unprecedented rate across our region.
Although we hope that 2021 will bring some relief, public health experts and epidemiologists warn that between now and then, cold weather and ill-advised holiday gatherings make it likely that this current surge of infection will not peak until January. For those reasons, I am once again suspending in-person worship, meetings and other gatherings in our church buildings effective immediately. We will reevaluate the situation in December, although I believe that we should prepare to worship, meet, and gather online through the end of 2020. The only exceptions to this suspension are lifesaving feeding and sobriety ministries, which should be conducted according to the guidelines in the diocesan reopening plan.
I reached this decision after consultation with the Standing Committees and other diocesan leaders yesterday, and this morning, I met with the clergy of the diocese to discuss this situation with them and review the data and public health advice that led me to this conclusion.
It pains me deeply to take this step, knowing that it may keep us from observing Advent and celebrating Christmas in person. This is certainly not the way I had hoped to begin the new liturgical year. But, as precious as in-person worship is to us, the lives of people in our congregations and communities are infinitely more so.
While in-person worship is suspended, I will resume hosting live online worship via Zoom each Sunday at 10 a.m. This Sunday, November 15, I will preach and preside, and we will enjoy music from the Cathedral of St. Paul in Erie. You can join this service using this Zoom link and the password lakeerie.
I encourage you to continue gathering online for Bible study, check-ins and the many creative types of gatherings that people across our partnership have developed during this long pandemic. And I urge you, too, to be generous to those who are in need, especially essential workers and their families who may need our support and assistance.
I will be in touch again in December as we continue evaluating the changing public health situation across our region. In the meantime, you will be in my prayers as you help our church navigate these difficult times.