March 12, 2020
Dear People of God in the Diocese of Chicago
As I am sure you are aware, the guidance from public health authorities about how to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, is changing by the hour. One thing, however, is certain: As Christians, we have a clear responsibility to help slow the spread of the disease so that the health care system does not become too overwhelmed to care for the most vulnerable among us. This year, I believe this is among our most pressing Lenten disciplines.
Accordingly, I urge everyone to stay home from church beginning this Sunday. Because I know we will not be able to reach everyone with this message before Sunday, I am asking clergy and lay leaders in congregations without clergy to plan to hold worship in person for those who do attend, using the guidelines I have offered in my previous two letters on the subject. After this Sunday, however, I ask that all in-person worship, meetings and events across the Diocese of Chicago be suspended until further notice.
The exception, of course, are ministries that serve those most in need. As you seek to modify those programs in the time of coronavirus, I commend to you these guidelines from our friends in the Diocese of Indianapolis.
This hiatus, which a colleague of mine called a Lenten fast from public worship, offers an opportunity for us to explore online worship. Beginning on Sunday, March 22, I will offer online worship on Sunday mornings via a link that will be posted on the diocesan website, on social media, and in the email newsletter. I also encourage congregations to host worship online; these suggestions for doing so may be helpful.
Out of an abundance of caution, we are also cancelling diocesan events for the foreseeable future. This includes, regrettably, the Chrism Mass traditionally held on Tuesday of Holy Week. Other diocesan meetings will be held online, and if you are a member of one of those groups, you will receive information about how to join your gathering soon.
The Nicholas Center will be closed beginning on Saturday, and while my staff will continue working, many of them will be doing so remotely. Please know that you can reach them or me via email using the staff listing on the website.
During these days that few of us could have foreseen, may God’s peace comfort and sustain each one of you. Know that you remain in my prayers now and always.
Faithfully, Bishop Jeffrey Lee