Friday, March 13, 2020

Coronavirus is Here - a Spiritual Response

Dear Parish Family,

Things are escalating quickly with the coronavirus in our community. Although Michigan has not been seriously stricken with this disease it is coming, and you need to know how we, as a parish family, will deal with this. You will have read on the internet, no doubt, that different parishes and dioceses in North America have taken different approaches to the virus than we will, ranging from canceling all services for the next month to doing essentially nothing. We think that the middle path is the golden path, and we will try to tread that path with God’s help.

1. If you have a fever or a cough or otherwise fear that you have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus (novel coronavirus) we kindly ask that you NOT attend the Divine Services in person, but rather join us in prayer via one of our live streams (details below). And that you reach out to one of our priests (details below) so that you are appropriately cared for at home.

2. The Divine Services will continue as scheduled for now. The State of Michigan is asking that we not gather in numbers greater than 100. That is about how many people we have on an average Sunday, and no doubt some folks will not attend because they are concerned that they will become sick or are already actively sick, so we will almost certainly be under that number. It is understood that some will be too concerned to attend, or will be actively sick and not want to attend so that others are not infected. THIS IS NOT A SIN by any means, but we also urge you strongly not to panic. Only those at high risk should consider absenting themselves from God’s House. The virus will come. You will have to deal with this pandemic together with your parish family or isolated from your parish family. But no matter what you will have to deal with it. You will be exposed to the virus. They key is to minimize exposure to high risk individuals early in the outbreak so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed by sick patients. For the vast majority of us it makes most sense to be together in the Holy Church during this time and to be spiritually strengthened by partaking often of the Holy Mysteries.

3. It is not possible to become sick from the chalice. If it were, the Church would have ceased to exist long ago because the clergy would have died off. The clergy consume the gifts that the faithful do not commune of, that is, what is left over after the people commune. If it were possible to receive disease from the chalice all diseases of the people would be there, and all clergy would be dead. As would all the faithful for that matter because they would be infecting each other. But it is not possible to receive disease from the chalice. Why? Because in the chalice is the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is pure. What is in the chalice is without spot or imperfection because it is God. Do not shy away from the Mysteries at this time! During a pandemic it seems to me that we need to commune MORE often – not less. The Church has never deviated from the faithful partaking of the one Cup of Life – and it never will.

4. Schools are closing. Given the larger number of Divine Services we have during Great Lent this is an excellent opportunity for our young people to be in God’s House more often. Parents – please consider this as a silver lining in the cloud that is coronavirus and bring your children to church with you for the Great Lenten services – especially during the week.

5. All services will be broadcast on the audio live stream so that if you cannot, for whatever reason, be at the Divine Services you can participate in this way. But the Divine Services should not be background noise. One should PARTICIPATE in the services. How? Something along these lines is appropriate:

A. Gather the family at the icon corner
B. Turn down the lights
C. Light the oil lamp
D. Turn on the live stream
E. Pray with us: cross yourself at the appropriate time, maintain silence, do prostrations with us for the prayer of St. Ephraim, sing the hymns with us that we sing together, etc.

Live Stream Audio

Live Stream Video (not on for every services – but for many more now that those who shoot the video are off of school)

6. At this time we do not intend to close the church. If that is somehow mandated we will deal with it then, but we have begun to put plans in place to assure that the Divine Services continue, and continue to be broadcast. Hopefully we will not get to this point, but if we do, we are ready.

7. Although you may choose to not be in the church now it is important to remember that the electric company and our other utilities are not going to stop charging us for their services. It is important for the stability of the parish, and for your own spiritual health, that we continue to materially support the parish – perhaps more important now than ever before because this pandemic will put pressure on our resources – and those resources come from the free will offerings of our community. Please visit this page to assure that your gifts continue – even if you cannot be present:


8. Pray. At the end of the resolution of our Diocesan Pastoral Retreat that just ended in Chicago you can find the prayer of the Optina Elders – I would strongly suggest that we ALL add this prayer to our daily prayers during this time of difficulty:


9. Do not panic! This is not the first pandemic and it will not be the last. The Church has survived them all and served the sick and dying each and every time. We will do that this time as well. If you are sick, need help, or just need to talk to someone call me (734.649.5746) or Fr. Moses (530-591.0416). We are happy to help you, talk to you, pray with you, and support you in any way that we can. If you are sick – we are happy to bring you Holy Communion. As I wrote above: we can go through this pandemic alone or as a parish family. And we can perish alone or we can be saved in community. Let us be together! Let us support each other! This is what a family does! Yes – maybe we will end up greeting each other with an elbow bump or in some other non-pagan manner (the media is somehow obsessed with pushing the namaste bow or the Vulcan “live long and prosper”, but as Christians we can no doubt come up with something that is not pagan if we cannot kiss each other or shake hands). It is always traditional to make a slight bow to each other in the Church – especially during the services when we should not be talking and loudly greeting each other. Perhaps this is our opportunity to reinvigorate this ancient Christian practice?

10. We will be more actively cleaning the icons in the church throughout the Divine Services, wiping down door knobs and other surfaces that are often touched, and otherwise be more active about keeping the virus from spreading among us. You may notice a few things are different at St. Vladimir’s during this time, but we think these differences will be pretty minor and we intend for them to be temporary.

May God help us all to go through this experience as Christians. Because we will go through it. We cannot avoid it. We cannot deny it. Be at peace – the Lord knows the number of our days and He will always give us what is best for our salvation.

Fr. Gregory

P.S. And follow the directions of the local and national authorities. If we all work together we can get through this with a minimum of casualties. This is a war, and a war takes the whole society working together to defeat the enemy. Now is not the time to think you are smarter than the authorities. Do what you are told and the maximum number of people will survive. There is a time to argue, to stand up for your rights, to be smarter than the powers that be, etc. I would submit that now is not that time. Now is the time to focus our fight on the enemy – not on each other. We can go back to attacking each other on the internet and Facebook after this is all over...

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