Late yesterday afternoon, Bishop Phoebe Roaf made a decision to suspend in-person worship throughout the Diocese of West Tennessee for at least the next several weeks. Her decision is effective immediately, and does include Christmas Eve. We will not have in-person worship on Christmas Eve.
The Bishop’s decision is a direct response to the recent surge in COVID-19 infections and the over-capacity conditions being experienced in almost all of the hospitals in our region. In making this incredibly difficult decision, the Bishop took into account Governor Lee’s statement from this past Sunday evening, the Shelby County Health Department’s orders from yesterday afternoon, and the advice and counsel of medical experts and diocesan leaders, including myself. Though this decision breaks my heart, I support it fully.
The parish staff met virtually this morning to discuss how we could best reconfigure our Christmas celebrations now that we are not able to gather in person. Your ministry team continues to impress me with their flexibility and creativity under the most challenging circumstances. Though we will not gather for in-person worship this Christmas, we are adding a number of new Christmas offerings that will actually increase our opportunities for engagement, albeit online.
Here is what you can expect:
As I think about our Christmas observances this year, my heart is filled with both excitement and sadness – excitement about the new and innovative ways we have found to be together, and sadness at losing so many of the traditions that define this time of year. God is big enough to hold both our excitement and our sadness, and has promised to love us in the midst of both.
In all things this holiday season, remember Emmanuel – remember that God is with us, and that no darkness will ever overcome God’s unstoppable light.
Yours in faith,
The Reverend Sandy Webb