To all God’s beloved of Church of the Epiphany, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
By now, many of you may have seen the news from Bishop Jennifer Reddall regarding public worship in our congregations. I fully support our bishop’s decision to suspend in-person worship. At this point, it has been suspended until April 20, 2020.
The season of Lent is a season of fasting and preparation for the great celebration of Easter. It is a time in the church year that we are asked to fast in order that we can grow closer in our relationship with God. The current time for our church is a similar time. We are being asked to stay in close relationship with each other by shifting the ways that we practice community as a people of faith, hope, and love.
Our parish is already in the midst of setting up livestream worship experiences for Sunday mornings. We will host a single worship service via Facebook Live at 10:00am on Sunday mornings. You do not have to have a Facebook account in order to participate in our online worship services. We will publish the link on the front page of our website by the end of this week so you can simply click that link to participate in worship!
If you are currently scheduled to serve on a Sunday morning, please watch your inbox for additional information on what our Sunday morning worship will look like and changes to the schedule.
The Spiritual Practice of Giving
Many of us are accustomed to giving financially by putting a check or cash in the plate as part of our worship. While we may not be able to pass the plate physically, we can still participate in the spiritual practice of sharing our financial treasure. You may, of course, mail a check to the parish office at 2222 S. Price Rd., Tempe, AZ 85281. You can also give online by going to https://www.epiphanytempe.org/giving. You may also continue your spiritual practice of giving by using our text to give functionality. To get started, simply text the amount you would like to give to (480) 725-3974.
All of our formation programs for adults are going to be offered via an online format. The mid-week formation programs are already set up to move forward. Our Sunday morning adult formation will continue with our current discussion of Episcopal beliefs and practices at 11:00am on Sunday mornings. We will publish the information for joining the discussion group on the front page of our website in the coming days.
For the next several weeks, we will be reaching out to everyone in our parish through a telecare ministry. We want to keep in touch with what is happening in your lives, and we want to do our best to help you meet your needs. Because of the public distancing that we are practicing right now, the phone calls will come, most likely, from individual’s cell or home number. If you do not answer, we will leave a message and hope to hear from you when you are able to return the call. Please do not hesitate to let us know when you need something – groceries, medicine, etc. We will find a way to get you the things you need.
Walking with Our Neighbors
As life unfolds differently in our communities, we are going to need to shift how we walk alongside our neighbors in the ways that we seek to be present to the most vulnerable among us. It will mean new opportunities for all of us to give of ourselves by ministering to others in some way. As we develop the ways that our parish is going to walk alongside the vulnerable, we will communicate ways that you can participate in those ministries. If you are not in the high risk group, I encourage you to find a way to participate in these vital ministries.
In the Gospel according to John, the disciples are found in a house with the doors locked out of fear. The fear that the disciples experienced in that moment is something that we might need to name for ourselves. A very real emotion to be feeling right now is that of fear. We are in an uncertain time in which there are not a lot of answers to the questions we may have. Let us name the fear that we are holding as honestly as we can in order that we might be able to see past the fear and into the grace that God offers to us.
The disciples were locked in a house on the very evening of the day of Christ’s resurrection. And in that moment of fear, Jesus appears to them and says, “Peace be with you.” Our story is a story of God entering into the fullness of the human experience. In Christ Jesus, God enters into human suffering and fear. God goes deeper into the human experience and encourages us to hold on to faith, hope, and love. The love of God is manifested to the disciples in the risen Christ. Just as the disciples shared communion with Christ in a new way, we are invited to share communion with each other in a new way. We are knit together through the love of God in Christ Jesus, and we are, each of us, apostles of the grace of God in an uncertain time. While we may be afraid and may not know what the future holds, we can rest assured that God is with us in all of it.
We are God’s beloved called to be saints, and we have the opportunity to practice our call to the saintly life in new ways.
May God be with you and protect you as we move towards a new dawn, a new experience of the resurrection, a new Easter.