Step Taken by Bishop Stokes to Curb Spread of Corona Virus
At the direction of Bishop William ‘Chip’ Stokes, Christ Church Shrewsbury and its fellow Episcopalian churches in the Diocese of New Jersey will cancel all public religious services “until further notice.” The timing of the return of public services will depend on the scope of the novel corona virus, or Covid-19, pandemic.
Mother Lisa Mitchell sent out an email to parishioners in the afternoon of March 13 relating the decision and confirming that Christ Church will not hold services until further notice, starting with this Sunday, March 15, the Third Sunday of Lent.
In an earlier email to parishioners, she wrote that while she has been “advised to limit visits to the elderly and those with medical conditions (for their benefit!) but I DO want to know if you are sick or have a need. So please email or call me: firstname.lastname@example.org or (732) 741-2220.
We will continue to keep you updated as we enter new territory of the coronavirus front.” Mother Lisa also pointed out that there is an online version of the Book of Common Prayer that parishioners can use as a personal prayer aid while public services are canceled.
The readings for the Third Sunday of Lent, including the Collect for the day, can be found on this Episcopalian website.
The Bishop’s Decision
Bishop Stokes released a letter on March 13 explaining the reasons for his decision, writing that after prayer and consultation, and effective immediately, “I am directing all churches in the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey to suspend public worship services and all other non-essential public gatherings until further notice.”
The decision, he said, will be reevaluated as Holy Week approaches in order to determine “whether it is safe and appropriate to re-open our buildings to our congregants and the wider public at that time.”
The Diocese has set up a special website–coronavirus.dioceseofnj.org—with practical resources on how to combat the virus and the schedules of online worship services. The site (still under construction but usable as of March 14) includes a helpful video discussion on the pandemic that Bishop Stokes had with epidemiologist Dr. Philip Lewis, a member of Trinity Cathedral in Trenton (though that video was shot before the Diocese made its decision to suspend services).