Dear Friends in Christ,
I am writing to you with regret to ask you once more to suspend in-person worship at our churches during the month of July. This decision does not come without significant prayer, discussion, and deep thought. As you may know, the governor of California today instituted broad restrictions on in-person gatherings in Imperial and Riverside Counties, and Arizona’s caseload is very high and increasing rapidly. San Diego County was not affected by the governor’s order, but also has tightened restrictions; the number of new cases per day in San Diego County is now almost four times as high as when I first allowed in-person worship to resume on June 21. Although the governor is still allowing churches to meet, I cannot justify taking this risk with our members’ health, or encouraging our members to believe that gathering in groups is safe, even with all the careful precautions our parishes have instituted.
I know how hard you all have worked to create safe plans for restarting in-person worship. I had the opportunity do my first in-person visitation since March on Sunday, June 28, to St. Francis in Pauma Valley. I had not realized how much I missed in-person worship until my experience with that lovely congregation. Celebrating the Eucharist and preaching to a live congregation after so long was a deeply emotional experience for me. And yet, despite the fact that the congregation took every precaution and was vigilant about masking and distancing, I was aware that all of us were taking a risk by being there. I have spent much time in prayer since then, as well as paying close attention to the rise in cases, and I think God is asking us to take a season away from in-person worship for the sake of our people and our community.
During this season away, I encourage you to provide online worship, live-streamed or recorded from your homes or from the church. If you need technical assistance in starting online worship, please contact our Director of Communications, Chris Tumilty, at CTumilty@edsd.org
. I will be in communication with you in late July to let you know whether we can restart in-person worship in August.
I am so grateful to all of you who have worked, prayed, and ministered through this time of suffering for so many in our community. I know that the Holy Spirit is still at work in our churches, and I pray for all of you.