From the Rector, March 27, 2020

Dear Parishioners & Friends of the Church of the Advent,

This is my regular Friday “COVIDtide” update.  

As expected, the Bishop has extended the suspension of public liturgies until Pentecost, May 31st, or until any time before that the public health experts allow us to resume services.  At the same time, a priest offers the Mass here daily as an act of intercession for the world, and in particular for the sick, the lonely, the anxious and health-care workers. Please do make an act of Spiritual Communion and join your prayers with ours.  While we are separated by geography, we can most certainly be united in prayer.

This suspension of worship is also an opportunity to remind ourselves that our identity as catholic Anglicans does not consist solely in beautiful liturgical events or “high churchery.”  The liturgy rather, is an outward and visible expression of our faithfulness to the teaching that comes down to us from the Apostles. As Cranmer taught--and you will forgive me for not having the source in front of me--there is no such thing as catholic worship, only catholic theology expressed in worship. 

I am also thinking about what things will look like, both for this parish and the wider Church. at the other side of this pandemic, and specifically how we get to “where the ball is going to be” post-Covidtide in terms of programming, staffing and our community life.  I will write more about this on another occasion, but these are very much in my mind, and the mind of the leadership team here.

Speaking of worship, by now you will know that we are posting regular webcasts on our Facebook Page and parish website.  Our aim is to present the Mass for the Sunday, a Choral Evensong on Wednesdays, and a couple of short meditations on other days. These have been very well received, both by our own people, and indeed the wider Church.  If you would like to watch a Sunday Mass, I have suggested Stephen’s Church, Providence [https://www.sstephens.org/sermon-archive] and will add the Church of the Resurrection, NYC: https://vimeo.com/resurrectionnyc. The Liturgy at both of these places will be familiar to us at the Advent, with sound gospel preaching.

I will endeavor to set up a Zoom meeting so that the Lenten Bible Study can resume, albeit virtually.  Look for a separate email about this in the coming days. If you wish to put Zoom on your smartphone or computer now [https://zoom.us/], go ahead, but you will also be able to call in to the meeting by telephone.

Fr James is spearheading our efforts to reach out to those parishioners with whom we especially need to check on at this time.  An update from him appears below. Know that your clergy are always available by telephone to address needs, or simply to visit with you.  It’s been a pleasure to visit with people this past week by telephone, some of whom I have not yet met in person!

We’ve had a number of calls and emails asking about the implications of COVID-19 for the parish finances.  The Vestry met on Tuesday night (by Zoom), and heard that while we do have a satisfactory cash position at this time, the Finance Committee is closely monitoring the situation. Many of you have sent checks into the office (thank you!), and we will soon add an online giving option to our website.

And again, on behalf of my clergy colleagues, and the lay staff, I thank you for those of you who have reached out to assure us of your prayers, or simply phoned to check in on us.  We’re all in this together!

--DEA+


Update from Fr. James:

Update on our ongoing Each One, Reach Someeffort -  Living under the guidelines and restrictions necessary to help combat the Covid-19 virus has left many of our parishioners in self-imposed quarantine.  We have a system in place to contact those who may need groceries delivered, prescriptions filled, or other necessary errands run.  We identified from our Parish Directory those who are older, living alone, or for other reasons may need to be contacted by phone or email.  The names of the parishioners were divided among the Wardens, the Secretary, the Treasurer, and the Vestry Members.  The parishioners are being contacted to find out about their welfare and to see if any necessary needs can be met by our volunteers.    When a need is identified it will be given to one of ten volunteers who are able and willing to deliver groceries, get prescriptions filled, or run any essential errands for the parishioners.  
 
As of Friday, March 27th, Each One, Reach Some”  has contacted 46 parishioners.  The good news is that all have reported that they are doing well and no one has reported any vital needs.  Many parishioners have reported that they very much appreciate the phone and email visits.  The parishioners will continue to be contacted as the isolation and quarantining could continue for a number of weeks or months.  If anyone knows of a parishioner or friend of the parish who may need to be contacted, please give the name, phone number, and if applicable, the email address to Father James.  If anyone would like to join the list of volunteers to help meet the needs of the parishioners please call or email Father James at 617-523-2377 or 919-605-6414 or jaycjames360@gmail.com.  

From the Rector, March 20, 2020

It seems that every time the leadership team makes plans, we must immediately adapt them to new circumstances. But be well assured, we are doing our best to adapt to a quickly changing situation. This email will bring you up-to-date on various things going on here.
 
By order of the Bishop, we are closed for public liturgies at least through Palm Sunday, and we should expect that this will continue until sometime in Eastertide. This is a great disappointment, I know, but it is best to mentally prepare ourselves for this eventuality. 
 
What we have done.  The clergy continue to offer the Mass daily, and to pray the Offices on your behalf. We do this as an act of intercession for the world, and in particular for the sick, the lonely, the anxious and health-care workers. Please do make an act of Spiritual Communion and join your prayers with ours.
 
A series of webcasts of Choral Evensong and short audio Meditations have begun to be uploaded to our website and to Facebook . This is our initial effort to provide the resources to sustain your spiritual lives. (If you are not yet on Facebook, might I suggest that you set it up? This is the best and fastest way that we can keep in touch with you.)
 
Fr James has begun the process of setting up a way that we can be in touch with those parishioners whom we especially need to check on at this time. A letter from him appears below. Know, however, that while pastoral visits will be only for urgent reasons, your clergy are always available by telephone to address needs, or simply to visit with you.
 
The Tuesday evening community supper for the homeless continues, albeit as a take-away meal, and with additional safety precautions. We will also be doing our bit for Common Cathedral this Sunday.
 
What we will do.  Fr Hanson and Fr Macdonald-Radcliff are pressing forward with plans to produce and distribute video of Masses and other content, both for our own parishioners and the wider Church. While other parishes are ahead of us on this, we do have some unique challenges here including a lack of technology and wireless connectivity in the church proper. Please stay tuned for further details.
 
An audio webcast of Sunday’s Mass and Sermon for Lent IV, Lætare Sunday will be on the website and Facebook. I am thankful to Mark Dwyer for producing these webcasts. If you are a more visual person, and until such time that we can get our own video up, may I suggest that you visit St Stephen’s Church, Providence [https://www.sstephens.org/sermon-archive] where our own Fr Mead is the interim rector.
 
I am looking at ways to continue the Wednesday Lenten Bible study, and perhaps other such offerings, by Zoom. I’m afraid that I am technologically challenged, so bear with me as I figure this out. I will update you about this on Facebook.
 
Finally, on behalf of my clergy colleagues, I thank you for those of you who have reached out to assure us of your prayers. It means a great deal that you continue to support this parish and our work here.
 
--DEA+

From the Rector, March 17, 2020

In light of the developing COVID-19 pandemic, and the various directives of the civil authority,  the Bishop has directed that “all public worship services are to be cancelled through and including Palm Sunday, April 5th.”  The Bishop further cautions that it is entirely possible that this cancellation will continue beyond that date.  

Accordingly, all public liturgies, including Sunday Masses at the Church of the Advent, are suspended at least until that date.  Needless to say, this is a disappointment to me, as I am sure it is to you, but the concern is for the common good of society, and we must all do our part.  This directive includes rehearsals, non-essential meetings, and any Lenten events. Off-site visits by the clergy will be for urgent reasons only. The Tuesday night community supper will continue, albeit with additional precautions and as a take-away meal.

At the same time, your clergy are committed to maintaining the sacramental life of the parish. Each day, one or more of us will pray Morning Prayer at 9am, and a priest will offer the Mass at 9:30am for the living and the departed, and particularly for the sick, the anxious and lonely and health care workers. Wherever you may be, we invite you to join your intentions with ours at that time, and to make an act of spiritual Communion such as the one here. I also would ask you to add the Supplication to your daily prayers.  The Prayer Book enjoins the Supplication for “times of war, or of national anxiety, or of disaster” (p. 154).

The parish leadership team are working on ways for us all to be connected during this time, and for the clergy to provide you with spiritual resources.  If you have not done so, please subscribe to/like/follow our Facebook page and check the parish website for these resources as they are posted.

Finally, I remind you that the Church ministers to the whole person, body, soul and spirit, and your clergy stand ready and willing to assist you in any way we can.  If you become sick, we need you or someone around you to let us know. If you are isolated and down of spirit, we are most willing to talk to you.  If you are homebound and need medication or provisions, we need to know. 

You will hear more from me as the situation develops, but do be assured of my prayers, even as I ask for yours.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will surely help you; I will uphold you with my right hand of righteousness.--Isa. 41:10

--DEA+

As part of our response to the COVID 19 virus, The Church of the Advent will offer daily webcasts of Choral Evensong alternating with brief meditations by our clergy. We extend these broadcasts to our own people as well as to the wider world as an opportunity to join in daily prayer as we intercede for the sick, the lonely, the anxious, and for healthcare providers. 

From the Rector, March 13, 2020

At Morning Prayer today, those present heard the story of Jesus calming the storm (Mk 4:36 ff) where we read, “Jesus arose, and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”   I found these words particularly meaningful in light of the public health situation in which we presently find ourselves.
This communication will bring you up to date on the Advent’s response, both practical and pastoral, to fast-moving events.  It’s a longish missive, but please read it carefully.
You will have read the Bishop’s first and second communications to the Diocese. If you have not done so, I commend these to your attention.  In writing to the Diocese, the Bishop has had the assistance of a task force, to which he has appointed me, and which has been in daily contact since late last week.  This small group consists of the Canon to the Ordinary, a representative of Episcopal Relief and Development, two epidemiologists, two disaster preparedness experts, and me.  I see my role as providing a pastoral perspective to the Church’s response.
Liturgical response. Needless to say, the sacramental life of this parish is of paramount concern to the clergy. The Mass and the Offices are the heartbeat of what we do here. We must also remember that the Mass is not just a meal of fellowship, but a propitiatory Sacrifice, the Great Prayer of Jesus himself, whom we solemnly offer and re-present to the Father for the sins of the world, and an act of intercession on behalf of that world.
In light of the Bishop’s mandates, the following changes will be made to our liturgical practice:
  • Holy Communion will be given in the form of the Host alone; no one other than the Celebrant at Mass will receive from the Chalice.  Please be assured that it is perfectly acceptable to receive Holy Communion in one kind only.  Holy Tradition teaches the doctrine of concomitance (from the Latin “together with”): the belief that the whole Christ is present in each Sacred Species.  Receiving the Host alone is not somehow a “half Communion” because both the Body and Blood of Christ are present in the Host, and likewise both the Body and Blood in the Chalice.  The Prayer Book affirms this tradition: if a person “cannot receive either the consecrated Bread or the Wine, it is suitable to administer the Sacrament in one kind only” (BCP, p. 457.)
  • Communion will be given into the hand, and not directly onto the tongue.  Receiving in the hand minimizes the chances of the priest accidentally coming in contact with your mouth.
  • Offering plates will not be passed from person to person.  Offering plates will be placed at the back of the church, and at the head of the aisle as you approach the altar, to receive your gift.
  • The Peace has been relocated from the Offertory to the Fraction, as permitted by the rubrics of the Prayer Book: “... the exchange of the Peace may take place at the administration of the Sacrament …” (BCP, p. 407.)  In practice, the celebrant of the Mass will break the Bread, then sing the Peace, to which the people will make their customary response, kneeling.
  • Please continue to use the hand sanitizer available at the doors of the church.  The clergy and other ministers do this before Mass and immediately prior to the distribution of Communion.  While we look forward to greeting you after Mass, the clergy will refrain from shaking hands at the door. Where possible, please spread out in the church. Surfaces, including the altar rail, are sanitized prior to each Mass.
As I write this, the regular schedule of Sunday and daily Masses and Offices will continue.  However, note the following:
  • Solemn Evensong and Benediction scheduled for Sunday, March 15th has been cancelled.
  • Thursday Stations of the Cross and Benediction are suspended.
If you are a liturgical minister, and are feeling at all unwell or otherwise unable to make it to Mass, it is vital that we hear from you sooner, rather than later.
We should expect further liturgical changes, and I will keep you updated on these.
Community life.  The Bishop’s recommendations will also necessitate some changes to the fabric of our community life.
  • Sunday Christian education offerings for both adults and children are suspended until Easter.
  • Professional nursery care is suspended until Easter.  Our caregivers are largely university students, and have departed or will soon depart Boston.  Parents may wish to make informal arrangements to watch children during Mass.
  • Sunday coffee hour is suspended until Easter.  I know this is a particular hardship, but food-service safety is of concern.  You may wish to make an informal grouping to go to lunch or a drink after Mass.
  • Clergy visits to hospitals and nursing homes will be on an urgent basis only.  We will keep up with you by phone, or ensure that you have the ministrations of in-house chaplains where such are available, but by visiting areas of risk, the clergy do not need to themselves become purveyors of viruses to others.
Prayer and Pastoral concerns.   The Church ministers to the whole person, body, soul and spirit, and your clergy stand ready and willing to assist you in any way we can.  If you become sick, we need you or someone around you to let us know. If you are isolated and down of spirit, we are most willing to talk to you.  If you are homebound and need medication or provisions, we need to know. But you must let us know--clairvoyance is not one of the graces given at ordination!
If you are in such a group, or are feeling unwell, you are dispensed from your obligation to be at Mass, and indeed are encouraged to stay home and rest.  In such a case, you may wish to make an act of Spiritual Communion (see below).
Know that the rest of us, who will be at Mass, will offer prayers and praises on your behalf.
We would all do well to add the Prayer Book Supplication (also below) to our daily prayers during this time of trial, as the chief work of the Church is prayer.
Finally.  Needless to say, this is not how I thought the first weeks of my rectorship at the Advent would be spent!  As St Paul says, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).  We shall all have to lean on one another during this time, and will emerge on the other side stronger and more united for the experience.
“Jesus arose, and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:36f)
DEA+
An Act of Spiritual Communion
As I cannot this day enjoy the happiness of assisting at the holy Mysteries, O my God,  I transport myself in spirit at the foot of thine altar; I unite with the Church, which by the hands of the priest, offers thee thine adorable Son in the Holy Sacrifice; I offer myself with him, by him, and in his Name. I adore, I praise, and thank thee, imploring thy mercy, invoking thine assistance, and presenting thee the homage I owe thee as my Creator, the love due to thee as my Savior.
Apply to my soul, I beseech thee, O merciful Jesus, thine infinite merits; apply them also to those for whom I particularly wish to pray ____. I desire to communicate spiritually, that thy Blood may purify, thy Flesh strengthen, and thy Spirit sanctify me. May I never forget that thou, my divine Redeemer, hast died for me; may I die to all that is not thee, that hereafter I may live eternally with thee. Amen.
The Supplication

O Lord, arise, help us;
And deliver us for thy Name's sake.

O God, we have heard with our ears, and our fathers have declared unto us, the noble works that thou didst in their days, and in the old time before them.

O Lord, arise, help us;
and deliver us for thy Name's sake.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O Lord, arise, help us;
and deliver us for thy Name's sake.

V. From our enemies defend us, O Christ;
R. Graciously behold our afflictions.
V. With pity behold the sorrows of our hearts;
R. Mercifully forgive the sins of thy people.
V. Favorably with mercy hear our prayers;
R. O Son of David, have mercy upon us.
V. Both now and ever vouchsafe to hear us, O Christ;
R. Graciously hear us, O Christ; graciously hear us, O Lord Christ.

Let us pray.

O most mighty and merciful God, in this time of grievous sickness, we flee unto thee for succor.  Deliver us, we beseech thee, from our peril; give strength and skill to all those who minister to the sick; prosper the means made use of for their cure; and grant that, perceiving how frail and uncertain our life is, we may apply our hearts to that heavenly wisdom which leadeth to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.