Responding to COVID-19

Responding to COVID-19

Updated: March 26, 2020 | 2:00 PM

A Message from our Senior Warden

Fellow Parishioners of St. Patrick’s and Our Saviour,

As might be expected during a time of uncertainty, monetary giving has decreased over the past two months.  This is due, in part, to the loss of opportunity to physically contribute offering during scheduled services.  And also as a result of the recent, sudden downturn of the economy.   And unfortunately, in the first year of our new treasurer, a few accounting entries were recorded erroneously within the increasingly complex accounting system previously used by our church, which led some to withhold their tithes awaiting corrective action.  These accounting errors have been corrected and addressed by the hiring of a CPA who assisted in the implementation of a new simplified accounting system, as well as the Vestry approving the resourcing of our Treasurer with assistance through a new Assistant Treasurer position and through increased bank and investment account reconciliations and a new Audit Chair on the Finance Committee. To be clear, the Vestry is committed to transparency and recognizes our part in supporting the treasurer and the countless hours of dedication to our finances.

Our giving for February was 27% under budget.  Giving in March is also continuing to not meet budgeted amountsdue to the interruption of worship services.  In light of our reduction in income, I would like to take this opportunity to stress the importance of our giving as we battle COVID-19, and encourage those who may have refrained from such, to catch up and to return to continuing their regular giving as able.

Here are a few ways you can give and support the church.

Gifts and tithes can be 

  • mailed through the Post Office, 
  • placed in the church mailbox, 
  • made online at http://www.stpatricksalbany.org
  • made by texting “give” to 229-384-0050
  • Online bill pay is a free service provided by most banks, and usually allows one to set up automatic payments on a set schedule.
  • Donations to the discretionary fund for emergency support can also be made at all of these places, specify “Deacon [or Priest] Discretionary Fund” in the memo.

Your Rector and Vestry understand that some in our congregation may also be facing financial hardship in this time. Please be in touch with Fr. Nick if your family needs assistance or if you need to delay or adjust your pledge for the year. The discretionary funds exist especially for times such as these.


In the meantime, courses of action have been developed by the Wardens in collaboration with the Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair that reduce spending.  The following courses of action have been or are being implemented:

Expenses

  • Mortgage:  The new mortgage agreement reduces the monthly payment by $800.  This savings assists in meeting financial obligations.  
  • Electricity:  Thermostats within the buildings will be adjusted to reduce electricity consumption while allowing for continuity of minimal operations.
  • Bill Payments:  Current practice is to pay bills as received.  During the existing crisis, bills will be paid by due date.  
  • Diocese Tithe:  If needed, delay payment for up to 2 months.

Personnel
For all of our personnel, we are committed to caring for them and working with them individually if there are other needs, and the way we do that would not include paying them while not scheduled to work. The benefit of being a church is that we have more than just a employer/employee relationship, and they will be included in the same survey assessment of needs that has been sent to the congregation.

The following actions pertain:

  • Choir Director/Organist:  Allow use of 4 annual Sunday PTO (paid time off) to be used now, vice quarterly.  Explore possibility of use of technology for long distant recording of choir members on a ¼ time basis, which represents a cut in compensation by half until services resume.  
  • Nursery Director/Assistant:  Allow Sunday PTO to be used now, vice tertilely. Furlough during crisis.
  • Contract Cleaning Person:  Reduce cleaning from one cleaning/week for each building to one cleaning/month.
  • Parish Secretary: Status Quo for now. Although the Church Office is closed, secretary working on vital projects for after crisis. Vestry will continue to monitor and determine whether reductions may be prudent.  
  • Rector:  Status Quo for now. Crisis situation has lessened some of the Rector workload, while greatly increasing other.  Vestry will continue to monitor and determine whether reductions may be prudent.  

It is hard for some of us to talk about money.  But in times like these, it is necessary.  I hope you receive this note in the spirit intended, that is, to make our congregations aware of the situation, to advise of ongoing actions, and motivate us towards giving in support of the church we love.

Yours in Christ,
Joe Wingard 


Updated: March 24, 2020 | 4:00 PM

Worship Schedule Updates

Beloved,

“Be of good courage, hold fast to that which is good.”

The above quote comes from a blessing found in the 1892 and 1928 editions of the Book of Common Prayer, and it is a blessing that our Bishop, Scott Benhase, has used in his episcopate this entire decade. I hope that it gives you some inspiration in these longer and longer days of physical/social distancing. Our faith is rooted in the idea that we strive to hold fast to that which is good, to God, even as our faith reminds us in our inability to do that well, God always holds fast to us. Being of good courage in these hours (and hours) looks like doing less rather than more, a prescription God obeys after the making of the whole creation and ask us to do the same. How have you thought of our current restrictions as requiring of us good courage?

Worship Schedule  |  Online Services from St. Patrick’s and Our Saviour
Our continued restrictions calls for some regularly shared worship opportunities digitally. With the varied offerings from the Diocese and other parishes having bugs to work out, Fr. Nick has decided to offer a fixed offering of services until further notice (keeping in mind, we might discover our own bugs). The following will be offered:

Sundays
Episcopal Morning Prayer with Sermon at 10:00 AM on Facebook Live
Lutheran Vespers at 6:00 PM on Facebook Live

Wednesdays
Episcopal Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM on Facebook Live

Weeknights
Episcopal/Lutheran Compline (in development)
Led by Parishioners
Contact Fr. Nick if you are interested in leading Compline 1x/week

All videos will also be kept for watching later at the same links when provided.

Holy Week and Easter

Worship Schedule  |  Holy Week and Easter
The clergy of the diocese received the following from our Bishop, Scott Benhase, earlier this week:

With new information coming from the CDC and from the Presiding Bishop’s office…as much as it grieves me to decide this, we need to cancel in-person worship for Holy Week and Easter. We still are on the upside of the curve and until we are on the downside, we must do this. Therefore, the Diocesan Staff will work to livestream the liturgies of the Triduum and Easter Day. Stay tuned for more information.

I remember something Bill Stafford+ told us in Church History class nearly 40 years ago: The world was held together by the payers of the faithful to God during the darkest days of the Middle Ages. And now as well.

-The Rt. Rev. Scott Benhase, Bishop of Georgia

As previously stated, we will monitor the Diocese’s plans. Fr. Nick is working on developing an offering of the Stations of the Cross as well as other ways to experience Holy Week and Easter from home. He attended a webinar offering by his alma mater, Virginia Theological Seminary, and is partnering with Lutheran Worship Planners, The Rev. Drs. Gordon Lathrop and Gail Ramshaw to help all of us to experience well this critical part of our faith as an Easter people of the Resurrection. More information to come by early April.

Study and Prayer

Study and Prayer  |  Online Options Forthcoming
Beginning this Sunday, March 29, we will return to offer our Lenten classes.

On Sundays at Noon, we’ll offer the study “Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week” via Zoom conferencing meeting software. A link will be published in an email later this week.

For our Wednesday Class on “A Spring in the Desert, Canon Logue has offered a link to the videos and study guide for his class, which are available here: https://georgia.anglican.org/about/bishop-elect-frank-logue/a-spring-in-the-desert/ These are not for public sharing, but only for our parishioner use with the devotion published for Lent 2020. This will be a self-guided study and please call me if you have questions or would like to arrange any discussion groups.

I am interested in offering other tutorials and offerings during the week. If others are interested in collaborating with me in any way, please let me know.

Pastoral Care Updates

Pastoral Response Update  |  Vestry Check-ins to Each Parishioner
We have heard back from over 70% of the parish in our rapid response survey and through vestry phone calls. Thank you for your generosity! Thus far, we have had the following needs identified and connected with the help offer:
3 request conversation partners, connected with 15 who offered (coordinated by Marian White).
2 request meal delivery assistance, compared to 7 who’ve offered (they are being coordinated by Fran Kempf and Leigh Ann Shipley)
1 special need with diapers, which have been delivered

Pastoral Visits Limited  |  Suspension of Holy Communion Distribution through March 31
With guidelines from the Whitehouse relating to “15 Days to Slow the Spread”, we will continue to limit in-person pastoral visitations to gatherings of less than 6 people and suspend the distribution of Holy Communion through March 31 beginning tomorrow, subject to further updates. Those desiring in-person visitations or pastoral visitations with communion may use a rite of “Spiritual Communion” said together with me. Please let me know.


Updated: March 20, 2020 | 11:00 AM

A Message from our Senior Warden

Fellow Parishioners of St. Patrick’s and Our Saviour,

We are all experiencing anxiety and concern over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. News reports on COVID-19 never seem to stop, and roller-coaster from “gloom and doom” to “nothing to worry about” can confuse even the smartest of us. I’d like to take a moment to reassure you that your church and members of your Vestry and Rector care about each one of you, and are there to help you through this time of trouble.

Nothing is more important to us than the mental and physical health and safety of our congregation and our community. Therefore, as you know, we have cancelled in-person worship services and continue to work to provide online opportunities. And we are working to stay in contact with each of you, in order to check on you and determine if you need assistance in any way. Each of you will be receiving a telephone call weekly until the “all clear” is sounded throughout our nation.

In the meantime, continue to follow guidance of health officials, who continue to emphasize the importance of hand washing. There is a general shortage of hand sanitizer, so use soap and water which is very effective. And I recommend turning off the TV and radio and spending some time outside, enjoying the nice weather God has sent us! All the rain we’ve had this winter has led to a bumper azalea crop, so get out there and enjoy them!

All of our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the coronavirus. The outbreak has created uncertain times, but we want to assure you that we remain focused on taking care of you. Talk with each other, and help each other as you are able. We will get through this together and come out a stronger congregation!

Yours in Christ,
Joe Wingard

Updated: March 19, 2020 | 4:00 PM

Beloved,

We all continue by faith in these days of pandemic and disruption. Please know that my daily commitment is to the human/pastoral response you need from your leadership right now. We are adapting swiftly to shift our model of church, which is humbling, in this time of social distancing and virus spread. Here are some updates that I am offering today, in consultation with our Senior Warden, Diocese, and the Episcopal Church, and mindful of continuing updates to come from our local, regional, and national leaders and public health officials.

New Restrictions for Dougherty County  |  (begins tomorrow) March 20-27

  • All gatherings of more than 10 people are banned, including church services.
  • Parks are closed.
  • Restaurants can only serve take-out, drive-thru, and delivery meals.
  • All entertainment venues are suspended, including theaters and bowling alleys.
  • All gyms are closed.
  • All grocery stores and retailers can only have 25 percent store occupancy and no more than 50 people inside at a time.


Pastoral Response Update  |  Vestry Check-ins to Each Parishioner
Your Vestry has committed to weekly verbal check-ins and offerings of support and prayer during this time. Working with the Senior Warden, I have designed an action plan and care call guide to support connecting needs with those who can help. Please look for a survey after this email is sent to let us know your needs and how you are doing. This will get worse before it gets better, so let’s keep being the church and connecting with one another. This is also a great time to write letters, make phone calls, and connect with people in your life, in our congregation. 

Worship  |  Online/Live-Stream Only through at least March 29
With guidelines from the CDC asking us to restrict gatherings of 50 or more people through May 11 as well as updates from the Diocese and Presiding Bishop’s office, we are suspending in-person worship through Sunday, March 29, subject to further updates. Instead, we will soon announce a schedule of worship services available online as a live-stream or for viewing at a later date. Some of these services will be in partnership with local, regional, and national parishes, such as the Evening Prayer service offered tonight at 6:00 PM on the Diocesan Facebook Page.

Pastoral Visits Limited  |  Suspension of Holy Communion Distribution through March 31
With guidelines from the Whitehouse relating to “15 Days to Slow the Spread”, we will limit in-person pastoral visitations to gatherings of less than 6 people and suspend the distribution of Holy Communion through March 31 beginning tomorrow, subject to further updates. Those desiring in-person visitations or pastoral visitations with communion may use a rite of “Spiritual Communion” said together with me.

Study and Prayer  |  Online Options Forthcoming
Because of this extended period of social distancing, subject to change, I am looking for ways to offer courses of study and prayer in this interim time. I will have more information regarding these updates at a later time.

Peace to you,

Updated: March 15, 2020 | 10:00 AM

Beloved,
In relatively short order, we were able to livestream a service of Holy Eucharist for the Third Sunday in Lent. We will announce future service offerings in advance, likely in collaboration with other local and regional churches. Thank you for your patience with us in this disruption to our worship life together. Also a big thank you to those who worked hard to pull this together, including Ben Gessner, our Director of Music, and Lenn Lewis, lector and videographer.

Updated: March 13, 2020 | 3:30 PM

Good afternoon beloved,

I want to enjoin you in prayer and response to the ongoing issues surrounding the coronavirus. I write to share an update with you regarding our response to Coronavirus. All Christians are called to care for the most vulnerable among us. We intend to do what we can to protect persons most vulnerable by playing our part in “social distancing” or the limiting of contact person to person during pandemic levels of viral spread. After consulting with the advice of local health officials, our Senior Warden, and our Diocese and Synod, we are announcing a suspension of all gatherings through the next two Sundays, subject to continued assessment, effective today, Friday, March 13, 2020. There is a growing consensus among epidemiologists that earlier action will lead to a return to the ‘new normal’ more swiftly. More details on the specifics of our decision are below:

St. Patrick’s Dinner | Take-Out Only | 5:00-6:00 PM

The St. Patrick’s Dinner will proceed on a take-out basis. Tomorrow, Saturday, March 14th, take-out boxes will be available to pick up from the church from 5:00-6:00 PM by coming into the parish hall.

Worship | Suspended

Until further notice, all in-person worship services and meetings of more than 6 people will be cancelled. We will monitor this and provide updates week by week as we anticipate returning to a modified or full schedule. Fr. Nick is working on solutions for live-streaming of services, and recommends parishioners visit our Ministry Partner Forward Movement, which publishes the popular daily devotional: Day by Day.

Distribution of Holy Communion | By Appointment Only

Distribution of Holy Communion will be provided at home and at church (in groups of 6 or fewer people) following the Book of Common Prayer’s “Communion Under Special Circumstances.” Do not show up to church this weekend unless you have made a reservation for private distribution. You must schedule a time for communion. Call Fr. Nick at 864.923.4263 or click on the button below to make an appointment as follows:

  • Sunday Mornings | 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM | Reservation Required
  • Wednesday Evenings | 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM | Reservation Required
  • At Home By Appointment

Other Events | Suspended through March 25th

Other events outside of this window will continually be reassessed and announcements made as soon as possible to support planning.

Pastoral Response

Your Vestry and Rector are committed to a comprehensive pastoral response to those in our community and beyond. St. Patrick’s and Our Saviour will continue to care for our parishioners and one another during this time of dispersion. We know how to be in community without being under the same roof. We will be touching base with each parish family at least once/week through this time starting this Sunday, March 15. If you need anything at all between our check-ins, please call Fr. Nick directly at 864.923.4264 or email: rector@stpatricksalbany.org


Updated: March 12, 2020 | 11:30 AM

THIS is why things are being cancelled due to #COVID19 in one perfect picture. It is NOT because people are getting hysterical or because they believe the virus is so deadly they are panicking. It is because we only have so much capacity to deal with lot of very sick people. If we can delay the spread by keeping people away from each other, we have a chance to help more people effectively and not overwhelm hospitals and infrastructure. There are only so many nurses, doctors, hospital beds and pieces of equipment to help people that may eventually get virus related pneumonia. 

Several of you have shared this image on your Facebook Pages. It is a concept called “Flattening the Curve”. Fr. Nick, along with parish and diocesan leadership, are actively monitoring information from local health officials on when it might be necessary to suspend certain or all gatherings. We are not quite there, and when we get there, I can’t say how long it will take for that curve to flatten. We are committed to safety and health, physically and spiritually. Please check here and on our Facebook page for more updates.


Updated: March 11, 2020 | 4:00 PM

Fr. Nick sits down with Alan Seely-Wilson to discuss the issues related to the Coronavirus at St. Patrick’s and Our Saviour.

Beloved,

I want to enjoin you in prayer and response to the ongoing issues surrounding the coronavirus. Earlier this afternoon, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this a pandemic in response to the spread of this new virus.

Earlier this afternoon, I sat down with Dr. Alan Seely-Wilson, who has both studied viral illness and served in clinical settings during the height of the HIV Epidemic, to discuss some of our responses here locally. You can click on the link above or button below to view this video. I want to offer some responses that have been initiated by the Vestry and myself that come into place for now. If there are additional guidances, we will communicate them broadly.

Pastoral Availability
No matter what or how you feel about this virus, please reach out to Fr. Nick if you need help in prayer, in concern, in frustration, in anxiety and need someone to talk to or pray with or visit. He can be reached by email: rector@stpatricksalbany.org and by phone: 864-923-4263

Presence of Illness
It is highly likely that the illness is already present in Dougherty County. There have been fewer tests available, depending upon the geography, but please know that we are taking these precautions assuming, reasonably, that the illness is already or soon will be present in our area.

Ongoing Events
St. Patrick’s and Our Saviour will continue with all currently scheduled events, including Sunday Worship, Wednesday Activities, the St. Patrick’s Dinner this Saturday at 6:00 PM.

Feeling Ill
If you feel ill or symptomatic, please plan to stay home, follow health guidelines, and contact Fr. Nick directly if you wish to receive communion at home.

Adaptations for Worship and Gatherings
Hand Sanitization
Upon entry to the Sanctuary and upon entry to communion, a member of the Vestry or Usher will offer Hand Sanitizer. This isn’t mandatory and washing your hands is better, but please heed this encouragement for your personal hygiene at key moments in our worship. Altar ministers and Altar Guild will continue to sanitize before serving, as has been our practice.

No Water in the Font
Until further notice, we will remove the water from the baptismal font in order to prevent possible spread through this universal solvent.

The Common Cup
We will continue to use the common cup at St. Patrick’s. We will shift to the metal vessels due to their antiseptic-like quality and the continuing strong research that show no indication of spread through the common cup. Ministers will continue to wipe the interior and exterior rim of the chalice between communicants, use of care to rotate the cloth during use, and use of a clean cloth for each chalice.

Intinction
The practice of intinction (by minister or communicant), will be suspended until further notice.

Eucharist in One Kind
Receiving Eucharist in one kind only is perfectly appropriate and spiritually is exactly the same as receiving both. We do not have to receive both bread and wine to have had Communion. If you have any concerns about the common cup, simply receive the bread.

The Peace and other personal interactions
Strive at the peace and in personal interactions to refrain from shaking hands or hugging (which is hard for this southern boy), including before or after services. In place, you may simply bow or use the peace symbol. Also, if someone gels after shaking hands, now isn’t the time for personal offense. The goal here isn’t to be unfriendly or inhospitable, but rather to do all we can to ensure each other’s well-being.

Offering Plates
Ushers will not pass the offering plates during communion. Instead offering plates will be stationary for you to place your offering upon entrance to the Sanctuary or to communion. You may use a giving envelope or fold your gift to ensure anonymity. If you need information on how to make a gift electronically, you may contact the parish office or click here.

Cleaning of Surfaces
We will work with Latressa to ensure the following surfaces are a part of her increased awareness. During her cleaning, she will sanitize door handles, pew tops, restroom handles, locks, and faucets, and importantly, the altar rail with cloths and a sanitizing cleanser.

Closing Thoughts and Invitation to Peace
Lastly, there is no need to panic despite all that you may be hearing on the news. The risk of being infected with Covid19 is still low, and vulnerable or immune-suppressed populations should receive additional guidance from your doctor. Being infected does not automatically mean that you will have contracted a life-threatening illness. Follow the common sense measures set forth by the CDC and then beyond that, do whatever of the above makes you feel safe. In the meantime, we pray for those who have contracted the virus and for those working to keep us safe from it.

Peace to you,


From the Diocese
“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Jesus said these words to the disciples as he walked toward them on the surface of a storm-tossed Sea of Galilee. In all our times of doubt and uncertainty, the Holy Trinity is present with us as Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This remains true even as we are inundated with news about the COVID-19 virus.

In this time of uncertainty, how do we respond?
First and foremost, the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization guidelines are clear and should be followed. These include the oft repeated counsel to wash your hands frequently, clean all frequently-touched surfaces, and stay home if you are sick. The complete information is online here:

CDC’s updates: http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/
WHO’s updates: http://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Epidemiologists agree that COVID-19 is here to stay. This new virus will infect the entire country to a greater or lesser extent in time. The goal for now is to slow the spread of the infection so as to not have our health care system overwhelmed. Bishop Benhase says, “The most important point for all clergy in charge of congregations: You do what you think is best for your people. I trust your respective judgments.”

As Bishop Benhase has said, “Let’s love one another, pray for one another, and not give into anxiety.”

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