Beloved of Christ,
The blessings of the Lord and His mercy be with you! Tonight, after our service, the Parish Council met to discuss the implementation of precautions that we, at St. Peter’s, must enact to guard against the COVID-19 virus. Consistent with the directives given to us by His Eminence, Metropolitan JOSEPH recently, the following actions were presented by Fr. John to the Parish Council, discussed and agreed upon:
1. We will continue to keep the liturgical schedule that had been previously established.
2. Coffee hour and all other social gatherings of the church will be cancelled until further notice.
3. Sunday School will be cancelled until further notice.
4. The blessings given by the priests will not include the kissing of his hand as is traditional until further notice. Also, a simple bow toward those with whom we exchange the kiss of peace during the Liturgy should be utilized until further notice.
5. When reverencing the Cross of Christ, simply bow as the priest gives you his blessing without kissing the cross or his hand until further notice.
6. The blessed bread (antidoron) is to be taken by Orthodox Christians only and should not be given to non-Orthodox visitors. The purpose of the antidoron is to cleanse the palate after taking communion. Also, parents are to be given portions of the antidoron to disseminate to their children. The children will not be given the antidoren directly.
7. Please keep as much space as possible between you or your family and others in selecting your seat during the services. Also, the children should not be allowed to move around during the services. Even though this illness seems to not affect children nearly as much as older adults and those who have underlying health problems, the children can still be vectors for the illness since this virus can be asymptomatic.
8. Those who are sick and evidencing symptoms of fever, chills, and the other symptoms of this virus should stay at home so as not to infect others. Also, those who have underlying health issues that could predispose them to contracting the virus should stay at home until the threat of this illness has subsided.
9. The basics of personal hygiene are the responsibility of each individual and are critical practices that can make a huge difference in getting control of this illness. These include thorough hand washing with attention given to the finger tips, covering your mouth with the bend of your elbow (not your hand!) when coughing or sneezing.
I emphasize to you that most of these measures are temporary and will be rescinded once the virus is under control. If the virus is still prevalent when we get to the major feast days of the Church, the social and festal celebrations will not take place, e.g. Annunciation, Palm Sunday, Pascha, etc. If we are neglectful of these guidelines, we endanger not only ourselves, but the community in which we live as well.
We will get through this by the Grace and Mercy of God! Praying the Akathist to the Theotokos last night brought much comfort to my heart. Even though this is not your typical Lent, if we look to our Lord Jesus no matter what happens during these trying times, we will rise above this illness and the inconvenience and even, suffering that it might bring. He will neither leave us not forsake us! If you have any questions regarding these directives, feel free to let me know.
Your forgiveness and prayers,