March 13th, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in Christ. I am just now back in Dallas from my trip to London for the Lambeth group. During the week we had worked on the statement which we sent out earlier today. But as soon as I landed I received several calls and was surprised to realize how much the ground had shifted in the 10 hours in the air – that is the nature of this epidemic. A neighboring diocese has cancelled all services, as have the Roman Catholic diocese, as well as other denominations. The first thing I did upon landing was assess the “lay of the land” in our diocese as it relates to the coronavirus. All along it has been my intent to be ahead of this issue, and now I find us trailing somewhat. As a result I am in this letter changing our instruction, for which I apologize.
After taking wise counsel, I am re-issuing my directive from this morning, as follows:
- Effective Sunday March 15th, all public gatherings in Diocese of Dallas churches and facilities are suspended for two weeks. This suspension includes mid-week services and Lenten activities, Bibles studies, small groups, etc. While this modification to my recent directive may seem severe, I am concerned with protecting the most vulnerable among our parishioners, and I have learned that what seems excessive will look quite reasonable shortly.
- All the terms of my directive from this morning not superseded by the bullet above remain in effect. That is, I ask that you urgently proceed with developing forms for remote worship.
- All Rectors, Vicars, and Priests-in-Charge of congregations should report to me how you will provide remote worship, copy my Canon to the Ordinary as well.
Let me add a word of theology before I close. We must as Christians be friends of the city who have the welfare of our own neighbors in our hearts; ‘their welfare is your welfare’ (Jeremiah 29:7). While the secular public health officials and magistrates do not dictate our decisions, we do mean to be in solidarity and common cause with them. These weeks are important as they gauge where we are in the epidemic, and it seems the right time to take this step of ‘abundance of caution.’
I suspect the odds of me modifying even this new directive in the coming days are high, and for that I do not apologize. We are in this together, for good and not for ill, which calls for patience, forbearance, and compassion. Let us pray for each other and keep each other apprised how we are doing.
Bishop George Sumner