HOW WE GOT HERE
St. Elisabeth’s is currently offering all worship and formation opportunities online through Facebook Live or Zoom.
After taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus during face-to-face worship, The Episcopal Church felt that, as good stewards of our loved ones and those who care for all of us – doctors, nurses, caregivers, service industry employees, – we should suspend face-to-face worship. This directive was issued by our bishop on March 12, 2020. We began streaming worship services on March 15. It was a scramble. With the help of clergy colleagues, staff, wardens and vestry, we quickly figured out a way to do this, consider what the service would look like, and how our prayers would remind us that God is present.
As we stay-at-home to assist all those in the medical profession who are saving lives and making difficult decisions, the Church is playing a vital role, demonstrating through action how to care for neighbor and serve the vulnerable. New ways of gathering, emergent theologies, and creative ways of worshiping are signs of transformation in the midst of crisis.
The Bishop and his staff meet via Zoom with all clergy in the diocese every Wednesday at noon. The Evanston Deanery is meeting every Wednesday right after the Bishop’s meeting to support each other, discuss challenges and act upon new ways of keeping all of the people of God in the Evanston deanery together.
At the request of our Bishop, our primary worship on Sundays will move to Morning Prayer with Spiritual Communion. Dillon will provide beautiful music. I will preach. We will pray. And, I believe, we will deepen our faith as we engage the scripture in new and meaningful ways.
During this time of Christian community amid COVID-19, we cannot be physically present within our beautiful sanctuary. The spiritual practices found in St. Augustine’s Prayer Book connects us internally with the sad reality that we cannot worship together physically. We yearn for the days to come quickly when we can gather together in our church again. Spiritual Communion reminds us that God is with us and that we are the hands and hearts and spirit of Jesus to each other and to the wider community during this time of anxiety and separation.
“O God, whose care can reach to the ends of the earth and beyond: We ask to care for and bless those whom we love, now physically absent from us. Decent the for all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both they and we, are always moving closer to you through the power of the Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP, p 830)
March 2020 | Church buildings closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19
March 2020 | St. E’s worship services streamed via Facebook live
May 2020 | Modified guidelines for building use introduced
September 2020 | Face-to-face worship resumes on lawn, weather permitting
Complete Re-entry Guidelines Released
Verification of Plan for Re-Entry
The Verification of Completion of Plan for Re-Entry document that was shared on the May 20 Zoom is linked here can be accessed online. Churches are required to submit this form prior to resuming the use of their buildings. Note that the form must be completed in one sitting. The form cannot be saved and accessed again. There is also the option to upload a copy of your plan for re-entry if you want to share it with Bishop’s Staff.
May 1, 2020
Dear People of God in the Diocese of Chicago,
Yesterday, Governor Pritzker issued a modified stay-at-home order that allows Illinois residents to leave their homes “to engage in the free exercise of religion,” so long as services “comply with Social Distancing Requirements and the limit on gatherings of more than ten people in keeping with CDC guidelines for the protection of public health.”
I appreciate the governor’s reaffirmation of the importance of religious freedom, and, like you, I look forward eagerly to the day when we can return to our churches and celebrate the Eucharist. I must ask, however, that you continue to abide by the suspension of all in-person worship, meetings and events which is in place in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago until the end of May.
As Christians, we are called upon to love and care for our neighbors, particularly those who are most vulnerable. For the next month, we can best do this by observing social distancing and minimizing travel. The exception is those ministries that serve the neediest among us, and I offer special thanks for those of you who have been able to adapt those ministries for this particularly challenging time.
I am working with leaders from across the diocese on what a carefully phased return to our churches might look like, and I hope to be able to share some preliminary details about our work soon. For now, please continue to gather for worship online and conduct your pastoral ministries by teleconference or telephone, and know that as always, you are in my prayers.
Bishop Jeffrey Lee
March 21, 2020
Some of you have contacted me with questions about how to maintain your daily operations in light of Bishop Lee’s request that you not use our church buildings except to feed vulnerable people. I hope that the following guidelines will help you make the decisions that are most appropriate for your context as we abide by Governor Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.
In the letter he sent last evening, Bishop Lee asked that we not travel to our church buildings unless it is an emergency. We would consider these issues to be emergencies worthy of visiting your buildings:
- Retrieving and depositing checks required to cover your congregation’s immediate bills; paying those bills.
- Processing payroll so your congregation’s employees do not suffer any income interruption.
- Checking on your building after weather or security issues arise.
- Any other situation in which your judgement dictates that the safety or security of people or your church’s property is at stake.
If it is possible for you to handle banking, bill paying and payroll from your home, we encourage you to retrieve what you need to do that today. However, we know that not every congregation has online or remote access to financial institutions and payroll processing. If you do need to enter your building to handle an emergency, please observe social distancing guidelines.
Several of you have asked if you can livestream worship services from your church building if your home is on the same property. We ask that you not do this.
I know that you may have many more questions as we all seek to live into new ways of working, worshiping, and serving, often from a home being shared with children, pets, and other adults.
Please know that all of us on the Bishop’s staff stand ready to answer your questions and concerns. And most importantly, know of our prayers for you, your congregations, and your communities.
All the best,
The Rev. Courtney Reid
Director of Operations
March 20, 2020
To the Diocese of Chicago:
Earlier today, Governor Pritzker announced that, effective tomorrow at 5 p.m., the entire state of Illinois will be subject to a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, I need to update and adjust some of the guidelines I previously provided to clergy for ministry in the time of the novel coronavirus.
Effective Saturday, March 21, church buildings should be closed except for essential feeding programs. No services should take place in church buildings. If you wish to record or stream online liturgies, please do so from your home. I ask you not to travel to your church building except in the event of an emergency.
Governor Pritzker’s new order, while essential for public health, will land most heavily on our oldest members, those who are particularly vulnerable to infection, and those who live alone. I urge you to make contact with members of your congregation to ensure they are safe and to assess whether they require pastoral or practical care. If you have not previously familiarized yourself with the resources for providing physical and mental health care to those in need in your community, please do so now.
Staying home curtails many of the ways in which we have traditionally served our communities, but new opportunities are arising. For example, the Deaconess Health Care system, which serves southeastern Illinois, is suggesting that volunteers contact hospitals and nursing homes to make face masks that can alleviate the commercial shortage. If you and the people with whom you serve can help safely, please get in touch with civic authorities and health care facilities to learn how we might be of service during these unprecedented times.
I ask you to take home from your church any items essential to your life or ministry by 5 p.m. tomorrow, and not to return to the church except for an emergency until the stay-at-home order expires on April 7, or later should the order be extended. Please understand, too, that while we may have greater freedom of movement after April 7, the governor’s order does not alter the fact that we will not be publicly observing Holy Week or celebrating Easter in our churches this year.
I know it is painful to be kept from our church buildings and to have our ability to move about the community restricted. However, I remain convinced that we can observe these measures as an act of Christian discipleship for the good of the whole community. There is much we can do over the internet, by telephone, and through the networks and relationships that I know so many of you have already cultivated. We are living limbs and members of the Body of Christ and we are called now to discover new ways to make that explicit in our lives and in the lives of those we serve.
Thank you for your faithful ministry during this extraordinary time.
March 12, 2020
Dear People of God in the Diocese of Chicago
As I am sure you are aware, the guidance from public health authorities about how to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, is changing by the hour. One thing, however, is certain: As Christians, we have a clear responsibility to help slow the spread of the disease so that the health care system does not become too overwhelmed to care for the most vulnerable among us. This year, I believe this is among our most pressing Lenten disciplines.
Accordingly, I urge everyone to stay home from church beginning this Sunday. Because I know we will not be able to reach everyone with this message before Sunday, I am asking clergy and lay leaders in congregations without clergy to plan to hold worship in person for those who do attend, using the guidelines I have offered in my previous two letters on the subject. After this Sunday, however, I ask that all in-person worship, meetings and events across the Diocese of Chicago be suspended until further notice.
The exception, of course, are ministries that serve those most in need. As you seek to modify those programs in the time of coronavirus, I commend to you guidelines from our friends in the Diocese of Indianapolis.
This hiatus, which a colleague of mine called a Lenten fast from public worship, offers an opportunity for us to explore online worship. Beginning on Sunday, March 22, I will offer online worship on Sunday mornings via a link that will be posted on the diocesan website, on social media, and in the email newsletter. I also encourage congregations to host worship online.
Out of an abundance of caution, we are also cancelling diocesan events for the foreseeable future. This includes, regrettably, the Chrism Mass traditionally held on Tuesday of Holy Week. Other diocesan meetings will be held online, and if you are a member of one of those groups, you will receive information about how to join your gathering soon.
The Nicholas Center will be closed beginning on Saturday, and while my staff will continue working, many of them will be doing so remotely. Please know that you can reach them or me via email using the staff listing on the website.
During these days that few of us could have foreseen, may God’s peace comfort and sustain each one of you. Know that you remain in my prayers now and always.
Bishop Jeffrey Lee