Patient endurance kills the despair that kills the soul; it teaches the soul to take comfort and not to grow listless in the face of its many battles and afflictionsSt. Peter of Damaskos
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!
I trust and pray that this writing finds you well, in good health and in high spirits. The challenging days that we have endured, and the ones that most certainly lie ahead, have and will be the test of our generation in the face of adversity on a large and pervasive scale.
Thus far, as a community of faith and a Christian family, we have continued to weather this storm with grace, patience and hope. I pray that these virtues will continue to guide us as we begin, ever so gingerly, to emerge from that which has constrained us and dictated our every move – most especially our ability to gather together as worshippers of the most high God.
Late last week, we received a new set of directives from His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver. The Protocol was prefaced with a letter from Dn. Paul Zaharas, the chancellor of the Metropolis of Denver. He stated that “to be clear, this is not a blanket permission to resume services, but rather for doing so when possible in your area.”
This statement was meant for the prudent pastor to internalize every word; to know the directives of local governments, to assess the readiness of his given congregation and the strengths/liabilities of the physical campus in which he serves.
This past week I have been able to meet with the chancellor of the Metropolis and all Metropolis of Denver clergy, local Greek Orthodox Priests and our parish team that has been assembled to develop and execute a prudent and deliberate plan for us to return to church as safely as possible. After all of these meetings and with all of our shared experience in mind, we are ready to begin our opening.
Please be aware that at any time, due to changes in State regulations or Metropolis directives, these plans may be altered in part or completely.
In one week from tomorrow, we will begin the slow task of opening up the church on Sunday’s much like we were doing before our worship was closed for good.
Per CDC recommendations, the wishes of the St. Anna Parish Council, my urgent request, and your common, good sense, and in consideration for safety of those around you, all who enter St. Anna’s will be asked to be wearing a face mask. You should know that by Metropolis decree, I am required to wear a face mask while distributing Holy Communion.
Per His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, individuals who have been exposed to the virus, experienced symptoms, or who are part of vulnerable groups, should stay home and be ministered to by the priest.
Sundays, May 24th and 31st will be open for the faithful to receive Communion following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Communion will be offered in the Narthex of St. Anna’s from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.
Sunday, June 7th, The Feast of Pentecost will be the first, scheduled service where the faithful are permitted to attend. This will be a glorious day. The chairs in the sanctuary, and pews in the over-flow space will be reconfigured to reflect social distancing requirements. Families are welcome to sit together. All individual worshipers, couples and families are still required to be six feet from one another.
Services for Worshipers 65 and Older will be celebrated once a week, likely Tuesday mornings. This Divine Liturgy will be offered to those who require an extra blanket of safety measures and we are happy to offer it to them.
Appointments for Communion, Confession and Unction are now, thankfully permitted. Please contact me directly to schedule a visit, either in your home or at the church for individual opportunities to participate in the Sacramental Life of the Church. I very much look forward to resuming ministry at this level.
Weddings, Baptisms and Funerals are now permitted to resume. Although His Eminence recommends that these services (not funerals) be postponed if possible, the church is able to offer these Sacraments, with modest numbers of participants and while exercising social distancing protocols.
Choirs and Congregational Singing are not permitted until further notice. A single chanter is to be utilized in the worship of the church. A second chanter is permitted if they are arranged far apart. Since we are accustomed to singing out while in church, and this is a practice that we know will be hard to resist, this is all the more reason that we wear masks in church.
Weekday and Other Services will continue, but while considering safe practices. For example, Saturday Evening Great Vespers will continue to be available only through livestreaming. The time between Vespers and Liturgy the next day does not give ample time to properly disinfect the space. After June 7th, the faithful may participate in Weekly Paraklesis Services, and other services, per the liturgical calendar. Parishioners that are +65 are the only ones permitted to attend such Liturgies.
Livestreaming will continue at all times, even after the pandemic has been put to rest.
Social Gatherings, Meetings and Classes are still prohibited per Metropolis directives. As soon as these practices can be revived, I will joyfully resume them. Until then, I have been learning how to utilize Zoom teleconferencing and will begin a summer Bible Study and other digital opportunities for growth and fellowship.
As parish leadership, we are taking this time to be proficient in cleaning practices, disinfecting protocols, traffic flow designs and air-flow, and most especially increased prayer.
Increased and Sustaining Prayer!
Do all of these requirements sound too worldly? Do you detect a lack of faith in our church leadership from the bishop to the priest? Please do not. Our sacred and perfect Church exists in the realities of fallen nature. We are subject to disease and exist in a state of fallen grace. Do not confuse caution, respect for life, practical realities, and the sanctity of the person with over-zealous practices. Our Metropolitan’s actions illustrate that we should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I, as well as the entirety of our parish council are in full agreement.
In closing, I remind you to call, email or text so that we can schedule a time for you to come back to your church. Come visit! I am anxious to see you! Happy to minister unto you.
With Love in our Risen Lord,
On a grateful note: I am thankful to announce that within less than 48 hours of announcing our St. Anna Virtual Food Drive to benefit the Utah Food Bank, we surpassed our goal of $5,000. I thank you for your continued generosity in the face of adversity. Know that that amount equates to almost $40,000 in practical goods and services using the leverage of Utah Food Bank resources.