Dear Clergy and Wardens,
Continued suspension of in-person gathering for worship, governance, and formation
In-person gathering will continue to be suspended until further notice. This includes drive-by Imposition of Ashes and Ashes-to-Go.
The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
stated this past week that we are entering the worst period yet in COVOD-19 contagion, and all metrics for Ohio confirm that reality.
Therefore, we will continue to model safety for ourselves and others by limiting exposure from gathering for worship and Christian formation.
We are all weary of isolation and yearn for the companionship and presence of our fellow communicants.
It is impossible, however, to estimate when it might be safe again to gather in person and what the real effect of vaccination will be. Please know that we monitor the data continually and evaluate our protocols weekly. The safety we model and provide to others is an essential element
of loving our neighbor.
The Ash Wednesday liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 264) is easily adapted to online devotion. The rubrics permit that, in the absence of a bishop or priest, every aspect of it may be led by a deacon or lay reader with minimal adaptation (see rubrics on p. 269).
The imposition of ashes, while an optional devotional act on Ash Wednesday, is for many a meaningful spiritual discipline. Ashes may be prepared at home in advance from any available source and worshipers may impose them on themselves or members of their household at the appropriate time, using the prayer and words of imposition (p. 265).
It may be particularly meaningful for some parishioners and families to prepare ashes in advance using palms from a previous Palm Sunday. If the parish has dried palms available, you might offer to mail a small piece to any communicant who requests one, along with a word of instruction (they may want to add a drop of olive oil to the ashes to make them stay when imposed) and a prayer. Feel free to provide your own prayer or use this:
Most gracious Savior, as we prepare these ashes to be a sign of our willingness to die to this life in order to find new life in you, grant that we may likewise prepare ourselves for the Lenten journey of self-sacrifice, to the end that we might each become a sign to the world of God's undying and eternal love. Amen.
Music and singing
Singing for Zoom, live-stream, and recorded online worship will continue to be limited to one singer, alone in a room, and accompaniment must be pre-recorded or offered from a separate room. We are currently preparing to record hymns with a virtual choir for use in Lent and Easter. Please encourage your parishioners to participate. Information on how to do so will be sent out soon.
Sermons for both the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
and the Last Sunday after the Epiphany
In conjunction with this year's Winter Convocation, I will provide sermons for February 7 and 14, based on the Propers for those Sundays. These will be available for download on Monday, February 1. Please feel free to use one or both in your online worship for those Sundays. The text of each will also be available for distribution to those parishioners who receive printed worship resources in lieu of online participation.
Please do not hesitate to contact me or others on the Bishop's Staff with questions about any of this. I and your parishioners are thankful for all you do as clergy and lay leaders to provide companionship, hope, and encouragement during this time of challenge and opportunity.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio