An Open Letter from Rev. Clarence, 11/14/20

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Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. James,

In my conversations—AKA social-distanced pastoral visits with some of you, required due to the pandemic—several of you raised the question: ‘Rev. Clarence, be honest and tell me about regathering; will we be back in church by Christmas?’  In response, I could only repeat what I have said before, namely that I, as do you, long for community: your smiles, your frowns, your sharing in news of family, of friends, of events our neighborhood at the top of Clarendon Hill, of the latest gossip when the long-awaited new boutique hotel will emerge out of the hole across the street.  That was and is an honest, truthful response, and so is what next follows:

  • You are aware that the cases of Covid-19 have increased in our Commonwealth, such that our governor, informed by science, has reinstated strict restrictions regarding in-person gatherings.
  • The City of Somerville has been returned to High Level Red Zone. Given the physical location of our campus in Somerville, although as parishioners many of us live in neighboring towns, we are bound by the regulations of the City of Somerville.  To ward against further spread of this unrelenting virus, Somerville’s mayor and his council, also guided by science, are not likely to relax restrictions already in place.  In fact, it should come not as a surprise to me, if we were mandated again not to engage in in-person worship, which is, in any case, our current situation.
  • Our Bishop diocesan in a zoom meeting with clergy in our deanery shared with us his knowledge of our concern and our fatigue, for he says, he experiences that fatigue as well. He longs for the time, when he can make visits to our parishes.  Zoom and live-streaming are innovative and good, but they are no substitute for the personal touch.  Truth: Bishop Gates has asked us to prepare ourselves and our congregations with the following fact:  Even if restrictions were lifted, we should not expect to celebrate the yearly remembrance of Christ’s birth with the pageantry of previous years.  That is an unwelcomed reality in our Diocese.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is faring, in some sense, better than some other states in the Union.  However, caution and care and concern for each other’s wellbeing is a show of love, for which the Messiah came.  We should be creative, for Anglican Theology allows flexibility in liturgy.  I should like to add immediately.  Not once did Bishop Gates mention the words “canon law.”  His emphasis was and is clearly on informed pastoral care.
  • Given these recent developments, your Senior Warden and I, mindful of our joint responsibility for the welfare of our parish, have not called yet a meeting of our parish’s regathering committee, in part because regulations from both the Diocese and the City may be refined, while not rendering previous efforts null and void, but enhanced.
  • Inasmuch as many in our congregation, as noted prior, are at risk of contracting coronavirus, or are caring for those in immediate family who may be, I repeat: Let us not haste.  If the God whom we worship is a God of love, I find it untenable that our Creative God would condemn us for not being able to assemble at Christmas.  Let us recall that early Christians were long suffering, holding fast to their faith, while hidden in catacombs.
  • I list next several on-line addresses that may help us through these troubled times:
    1. Should you not have a Book of Common Prayer, you may remain in the safety of your dwelling and still avail yourself of the beauty and consolation of our prayers.  And should this not be attractive, send me an email and I shall personally deliver to your house one from the church.
    2. Diocesan Directives Concerning Coronavirus: and
    3. This is the Diocese in Outreach.  Episcopal City Mission has started a COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund to address the economic and racial inequities exposed by the Covid-19 epidemic.

As we look ahead toward End-of-Year reports of parochial organizations and activities, which obviously have been limited due to Covid-19 and government and diocesan restrictions, and our to Annual Meeting, I remain enthused by emails received from some of you and telephone calls from others.  I am reminded of a Negro Spiritual which I heard once—do not ask me when or where, for I recall not—and whose lines I cannot recall accurately.  However, one line has etched itself in my mind:  “Lord, I tired and my soul needs a-resting, tired and my soul needs a-resting, but I can’t stop now, that’s where the saints have trod.”  For me, the implication is that others, too, have been tired; let us labor on.  As Bishop Gates said: “Christmas will come.  Let us celebrate in ways that demonstrate to ourselves and others the love of God which prompted this event.”  I bid your prayerful patience.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

O merciful God, giver of life and health, whose will is made known to us in Jesus Christ our Lord: Send Your blessing upon all who are engaged in healing.  Grant that they may be compassionate in their care and fearless in their efforts to promote the health and well-being of the people of this and other lands, and be strengthened by Your grace, for the sake of Your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  AMEN

Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family, St. James.  Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent.  Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Chris our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be with and remain with you and those whom you love this day and for ever. Amen

Your humble fellow in The Way