Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As you know, the situation surrounding the coronavirus is rapidly changing. As of this afternoon, we have received the following new directives from Metropolitan JOSEPH:
1) We are to cancel all non-liturgical, in-person activities including Sunday School, business meetings, and social functions at SIOC until further notice.
2) All liturgical services will be served with ONLY clergy, servers, and chanters. (I will be designating who they will be).
3) The Church (Nave) will remain open during usual office hours for people to come offer individual prayers and light candles (please note that only permitted 10 people are permitted in the Narthex and Nave at a given time).
4) All Priest have been instructed to limit services to ONLY the Akathist on Friday evenings and Sunday Orthros & Divine Liturgy as well as the Divine Liturgy for the Annunciation on March 25th as outlined by the Department of Liturgics. We are currently working on a way to live stream services at SIOC. We hope to have an audio feed available for Sunday morning and a visual one in the near future. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit the website of another Orthodox Church with these capabilities such as (http://stgeorgelawrence.org/live-streaming-of-liturgy-each-sunday/) or (https://stgeorgehouston.com/livestream). Once we do have a way to live stream, we will email you with instructions for how to use it.
5) The Archdiocese will provide service texts for the faithful to pray at home during this time of social distancing. Please see the Liturgics section of our website for the new offerings.
As this is still in development, please also consider visiting the OCA website for resources: https://www.oca.org/resources-coronavirus
6) Funerals must be limited to the guidelines set by our civil authorities.
7) All Baptisms are postponed except for cases of emergency.
8) I will continue to hear confessions and administer sacraments for those who express a great need (per the archdiocese directive). Please contact me to arrange this.
We pray that by implementing these measures we can hasten the time when it will be safe to return to a full liturgical life, and in the process, God willing, save lives at the same time.
A final word: I have spoken to many of you over the past few days, have received numerous calls, texts and e-mails and I know that you are very concerned about this situation and I share that concern. I want to assure you of my continued prayers for you all during this time. I will be here to support you in any way I can. Please know that I love you and that it is very difficult for me to be apart from you on Sunday mornings especially. We need each other more than ever and we can STILL help each other even when we are apart. I encourage you to please reach out and support your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with phone calls, video chats, etc., but most especially with prayer. Be a support for each other during this trying time. I also ask that you take this opportunity to be with your families and to pray more and to read the scriptures together. Above all remember this: “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Lastly, I recommend that you read the word of encouragement from His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH. May God bless you all!