Brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am writing to inform you that beginning this Sunday, March 15, St. Mark’s is cancelling all in-person worship services and other activities. We will offer online worship via Facebook Live, and a variety of other virtual ways to connect and pray with one another in this difficult time.
We will follow local, state and federal guidelines and diocese recommendations regarding resuming normal activities.
An exception is the blood drive scheduled for March 18: due to the increasingly urgent need for blood donors, we still plan to host the American Red Cross from 2-7 p.m. in Williams Hall, with all due care and attention to minimizing the risk of infection. More information is available at redcrossblood.org.
We do not make this decision lightly, but it has become clear to us that following Jesus and loving our neighbor as ourselves requires us to do everything in our power to inhibit the spread of Covid-19. The most important way we can contribute to local public health efforts is to eliminate our in-person gatherings and offer people ways to stay connected to one another from a distance.
To that end, we are planning a robust schedule of opportunities to pray together, converse together, worship together, and study together using Facebook, Zoom online meetings and phone conferences, email, phone calls, and good old envelopes and stamps!
Among the opportunities we expect to make available in the next few days:
Sunday Morning Prayer live from the sanctuary, with music, beginning Sunday, March 15, at 10 a.m. via Facebook Live. You do not have to have a Facebook account to watch the livestream video! Just go to www.facebook.com/stmarkwestford. Ignore any prompts to log in: the video is offered to the public and can be viewed by anyone! There will also be links on our website and all email announcements.
Beginning Monday, March 16, we will also offer a daily Compline service at 9 p.m. via Facebook Live. This brief home-based prayer service will give us an opportunity to come together at the end of the day to pray for ourselves, for the sick and suffering, and for the world, as we entrust one another to God’s care for another day.
We will continue our discussions about The Way of Love via Zoom Meeting on Sundays, at a time to be announced. You can participate in a Zoom meeting on your computer via video link, or by phoning a dedicated phone number and participating by voice only. We will add a regular “Theology at the (Virtual) Tavern” as a virtual gathering space for discussion and fellowship, and a book to read for future discussion. We are also discussing opportunities for children and families. These online opportunities will require registration in order to receive instructions for joining, but are open to all, including those not affiliated with St. Mark’s.
We will also be putting together a phone tree and asking every parishioner to call someone else each week, to offer encouragement, connection, and awareness of what is going on with each of our members. And we anticipate setting up a “pen pal” program for children and elders to increase intergenerational connections.
We invite and encourage you to share these opportunities widely, with anyone you think might welcome a chance to connect with others right now. That might include friends and neighbors here in Westford, friends and family members living elsewhere, your social media friends, and the general public. As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reminded the Church in his online address this week, we are all in this together.
While it is easy to be overwhelmed by anxiety in these difficult times, we are also being given an opportunity to let God’s light shine through us and to bear witness to the strength our faith grants us. We are reminded to place our trust in God and act out of compassion and love, not fear. As St. Paul wrote to the Philippians:
“Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Even when our lives are disrupted, when our sense of safety is destroyed, when there is ample cause to fear, the Bible tells us that God’s love for us never fails, that the darkness cannot overcome the Light, and that even death yields before the power of God. As a community of faith, let us live as a people whose hope never fails, because our hope is in the Lord.
Your sister in Christ,
The Rev. Suzanne Wade, rector at St. Mark’s, can be contacted by phone call or text at 508-472-9656 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.