Beloved of Christ Jesus,
The Lord bless and keep us all!
We continue to try to find the best way forward as COVID-19 spreads in our area. We write to encourage you in faith and love and to outline some practical measures we are taking for the health of our community.
Metropolitan JOSEPH has released an updated encyclical regarding the current crisis, March 17th, 2020. He gives clear directions to the Antiochian Orthodox Churches regarding our plans to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“As we cautioned in our encyclical of last week, we are in the midst of a rapidly changing situation, and it was likely that we would be asked to make more sacrifices […]. With yesterday’s announcement of the new CDC recommendations by President Trump, that time has sadly come. With pain of heart, but also hope in our Lord, I ask the clergy and faithful of our Archdiocese to abide by these new directives that we may do our part in combatting this pandemic:”
St Nicholas Church’s Current Plan
- Everything is canceled or postponed until further notice except for Sunday morning Orthros & Divine Liturgy. This includes all non-liturgical gatherings and all Lenten Services plus our weekly Great Vespers. There are ONLY 2 services each week (Sunday morning) until further notice.
- We encourage everyone to stay home. Father John is coordinating with the Altar Server Ministry Team & the Liturgical Choir/Chanters to have the minimum number of staff needed for each service.
- We will do our best to make these services available live streaming on our Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/StNicholasAR/
- We encourage you to pray at home during this time of social distancing. It could be a great blessing for us to pray together in our homes. Please see the Liturgics section of the archdiocese website for the new offerings.
- The Parish Council is developing emergency relief plans for anyone who needs emergency assistance. Volunteers will be ready to pick up supplies and deliver them to homes in the most sanitary manner possible. We are hopeful that things will not get to this point.
- Financially the parish has a reserve of 3 months we could operate on if no one was able to continue tithing. Thankfully, many of you are taking advantage of our online donation system with Paypal. And we expect others will be able to mail in their contributions.
- We are uncertain about Holy Week & Pascha but right now we’re just going to take this a day at a time. There is real grief about missing Church, but this can also be a time of faith-building.
Metropolitan JOSHEPH’s Directives
- Beginning today, all parishes are instructed to cancel all non-liturgical, in-person activities including schools, business meetings, and social functions.
- All liturgical services will be served with only clergy, servers, and chanters. No liturgical service can total more than ten persons.
- Churches should remain open during the week as much as possible for people to offer individual prayers and light candles.
- Priests are instructed to limit services to only the Akathist/Medayeh and Sunday Orthros & Divine Liturgy as well as the liturgy for the Annunciation on March 25th as outlined by the Department of Liturgics.
- All parishes are encouraged to take advantage of the technology at our disposal to live-stream the divine services and offer education to the faithful.
- The Archdiocese will provide service texts for the faithful to pray at home during this time of social distancing. Please see the Liturgics section of our website for the new offerings.
- All measures to ensure the cleaning and sanitizing of the church must continue even though we are limiting our numbers of faithful in attendance.
- Funerals must be limited to the guidelines set by our civil authorities.
- Baptisms should be postponed except for cases of emergency.
- Finally, we pray that by implementing these measures in coordination with our civil authorities, we can hasten the time when it will be safe to return to a full liturgical life in the church, and, God willing, save lives at the same time.
Remender to use Good Personal Hygiene Habits
- We all need to be intentional about using good personal hygiene.
- Hand sanitizer is our friend. We will do our best to keep hand sanitizer available in the narthex for use when entering and leaving. There are currently shortages of commercially produced hand sanitizers, but we will make every effort to procure the ingredients to make a trustworthy homemade version, one with an isopropyl alcohol percentage of at least 70%. At the same time, if you have it, do bring your own hand sanitizer too, so that our church supply will last longer.
- Hand sanitizer isn’t our only friend. Washing our hands for 20 seconds after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing following proper procedure with warm soapy water is the surest way to prevent the spread from person to person through hand-to-hand contact.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Practice respiratory hygiene – This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- Stay home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and a slight runny nose until you recover. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. We will miss you, but we want you to rest and get healthy; and, of course, we’d rather not spread anything around. When you do find it necessary to stay home due to illness – not just during this special period of concern, but at other times as well – please do send Father John a message so that he can include you in our parish prayers.
- If you do have to be where other people are, stay at least 6 feet away whenever possible.
- Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Here is a simple list from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to help prevent getting and spreading contagions such as the coronavirus. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html
The Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all,
†St Nicholas Parish Council
We commend to your use the wonderful prayer often attributed to St Philaret of Moscow or to the Elders of the Optina Monastery, which you can find below. It is a prayer to embrace God’s will in the day-to-day events and circumstances of our lives. Through the divine services, through the use of the inspired prayers of the saints, and through time spent quietly in God’s presence (perhaps gently reciting the Jesus Prayer to anchor our attention), may we find comfort and growth during these difficult times.