May 22 Update on COVID-19

A Message from the Rector
Regarding COVID-19 and Mindfulness at GSL

Dear Grace-St. Luke’s Church and School Community:

I pray you and yours are faring well and give thanks for our common life of faith. It is important to keep our community informed of how the GSL clergy and lay leadership is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, namely in how worship and more will be offered in the near and far future. If you have any questions along the way, please contact me directly.

Since May 7, when Bishop Phoebe announced that in-person worship may begin as early as June 1, guidelines have been adopted for use by faith communities based on directives from health and government officials. On behalf of the Vestry, Senior Warden Simon Wadsworth and Junior Warden Charlie Pazar and I are working with a Re-Entry Team to outline a plan for GSL based on the May 20th Faith Community Guidelines for Resumption of In-Person Worship. In-person worship could begin as early as June 7. However, this plan could change if health officials and the Bishop direct a delay for the care and safety of us all. Meanwhile, we need your help by Monday, May 25. If you have not already done so, please take a moment to complete a quick survey: Household Plans for In-Person Worship. Follow this link to provide a general idea of your plans to return for in-person worship when the time comes.

Most importantly, our virtual worship offerings will continue for the foreseeable future.  We want all to stay safe and practice self-care, making the decision most right for them. Staying at home to worship and pray as an integral member of the parish reminds us that together we make up the strength of the body of Christ. Certain audio-visual upgrades and equipment are necessary to maintain livestreaming services in a way that is both a positive experience for viewers and manageable by staff and volunteers.

Thank you for the countless ways by which you make us strong. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and because the Church is the People, Grace-St. Luke’s is alive and well. Our vision is to be a thriving community of hope, belonging, and healing through worship, parish life, and service, and who rejoices in the love of Jesus to transform the world.

I look forward to sharing future updates related to the pandemic, including how GSL remains mindful, prayerful, and responsive for the good of the wholeness of the human family.

Godspeed as we journey with Jesus,

Ollie+
The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org 

May 8 UPDATE on COVID-19

Friday, May 8, 2020
A Message from the Rector
Regarding COVID-19 and Mindfulness at GSL

Dear Grace-St. Luke’s Church and School Community:

On Sunday, May 3, I shared a message about preparing for when we will be able to return to our buildings and grounds for worship. Via the May 7 edition of the Diocesan Communicator, Bishop Phoebe announced that in-person worship may begin as early as June 1. Some faith communities might offer weekday services while a majority, including GSL will resume on Trinity Sunday, June 7. Later in June, our School will have the long-awaited chance to assemble in creative, socially distanced ways for the spring traditions of Honors Chapel and 8th grade Graduation. I am working with Head of School Thor Kvande and his incredible team on plans for these extraordinary events.

On June 7 and for the foreseeable future, all liturgies will be based on Morning Prayer and not include the Holy Eucharist. Formation classes, childcare services, fellowship events, and the administration of Holy Baptism will not be permitted. Soon, we will have the guidelines necessary to adopt the gathering practices required by COVID-19 restrictions. This re-entry plan could change if health officials recommend a delay in the next couple of weeks. Closer to our return, detailed information will be announced.

Meanwhile, and even after we re-open, virtual offerings on Sundays and weekdays will continue. They have been appreciated and well attended, providing spiritual food in totally new ways for life at GSL. We cannot stress enough how important it is for individuals and households to be cautious and stay healthy by all means necessary, including staying home until the right time. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and because the Church is the People, Grace-St. Luke’s is alive and well.

Our vision is to be a thriving community of hope, belonging, and healing through worship, parish life, and service, and who rejoices in the love of Jesus to transform the world. Thank you for the countless ways by which you make us strong. I look forward to sharing future updates related to the pandemic, including how GSL remains mindful, prayerful, and responsive for the good of the wholeness of the human family.

Godspeed as we journey with Jesus,

Ollie+
The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org 

May 1 UPDATE on COVID-19

Friday, May 1, 2020
A Message from the Rector
Regarding COVID-19 and Mindfulness at GSL

Dear Grace-St. Luke’s Church and School Community:

We continue to do our part in observing practices to slow the spread of COVID-19. Navigating life outside of the social, familial and religious norms of physical togetherness, this transformational season reminds that the body of Christ, the Church actually is the People of God. We are an Easter people interconnected by baptism, mission, ministry, faith, fear, anxiety, and hope that can withstand a pandemic. Mindful that you, like I, long to return for worship and other gatherings at GSL, I want to share what I know for now.

The clergy-staff team, wardens and vestry are unclear as to when in-person activities can resume. Our process will involve guidelines from our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Phoebe A. Roaf and her team, health and government officials, and many conversations with rectors of the larger congregations in the Memphis region. Thereafter, we will outline and communicate a way forward that will include both virtual and in-person offerings. I also am attentive to wisdom from the interfaith leaders of the Memphis Clergy Response to COVID-19 Team. Follow this link for the team’s recent letter co-signed by Bishop Phoebe. The letter stresses reliance on the medical and scientific community as the primary resource for information, collaboration to both responsibly care for those who contract COVID-19 and determine when returning to in-person worship is possible, and the faith-based responsibility to speak up for the most vulnerable and marginalized members of the human family in and beyond our community.

Today, what we know is that phase one of the Shelby County and Memphis “back to business” plan will not be permissible until there have been fourteen (14) consecutive days of declining new cases of COVID-19. Then, places of worship may return to liturgies though limited to maximum of 25% capacity according to clear plans for physical distancing and sanitation routines. For GSL, how this will look and when we may return will be determined by Bishop Phoebe and our in-house team, and I promptly will update you.

I miss and am grateful to you as we prayerfully find our way through this painful time. For now, we simply are preparing to return wisely. Daily pastoral care and attention continue, as do a host of weekly virtual offerings for worship, formation, and fellowship with the clergy and friends. More Than A Meal’s brown-bag plan is effective while Food Pantry reopen plans are being explored with our community ministry partners.

Now and always, your support of life at GSL is paramount and a powerful witness that the Church actually is the People of God. Stay tuned for more along the way.

Godspeed as we journey with Jesus,

Ollie+
The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org 

April 2 UPDATE on COVID-19

Wednesday, April 2, 2020
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent
A Message from the Rector
UPDATE on COVID-19 and Mindfulness at GSL

Dear Grace-St. Luke’s Church and School Community:

It is hard to believe we are near the end of Lent and soon will enter Passion Week, the “holiest of weeks.” The faithful are invited to join an intentional journey with Jesus from the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday to the Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day. It should go without saying: Passion Week and Eastertide 2020 will go down in history as a time when the world experienced the coronavirus pandemic; like no other time in our modern collective memory, society was practicing physical distancing and unable to gather!

The innumerable negative and positive effects of the pandemic on individuals, households, and communities are unlikely to be forgotten. I suspect many already are reflecting, writing, and recording experiences. Undoubtedly, loss, grief, despair, anger, hope, new beginnings, and resilience will leave imprints on the lives of the human family and bind the world together.

Meanwhile, the Grace-St. Luke’s community is trying to do its part in observing the recommended practices and precautions that might slow the spread of the coronavirus. While we are operating outside of the social and some familial norms of physical togetherness, we are connected by love, faith, relationships, and a holy support of one another that can withstand a pandemic or any disaster.

I invite you to explore and engage the virtual offerings of worship, formation, music, and connections planned for Passion Week and Eastertide 2020 at GSL. (Watch for details via special eNews and visit www.gracestlukes.org/news/weekly-virtual-offerings; worship will be live and prerecorded offerings. ) As the human family finds its way through this wilderness, our Clergy-Staff Team goal is to provide you with unique meaningful experiences, including how to create sacred spaces in your home to observe Palm Sunday, the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Great Vigil of Easter), and Easter Day.

Grace-St. Luke’s is not closed. Instead, we are becoming more open, humbled, and courageous in abiding with God and living by the faith that lives within us. Let us hold the human family in our prayers, trust that all shall be well, and live deeply into what it means to be the Church, the body of Christ, for the world. Now and in all seasons, may we thoughtfully continue to care for one another and even offer our invaluable gifts to the glory of God and to support life at GSL and the world.

Gratefully and Godspeed as we journey with Jesus,

Ollie+

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org

March 26 UPDATE on COVID-19

Thursday, March 26, 2020
A Message from the Rector 
UPDATE on COVID-19 and Mindfulness at GSL

Dear Grace-St. Luke’s Parish Community: 

Grace-St. Luke’s continues to do its part of observing the practices and precautions that might slow the spread of the coronavirus. With God’s help, all are trying to do what is faithful and right to keep being the Church, the body of Christ, while being physically distant from one another in unimaginable ways. Just as I am, I trust that you and yours are taking good care and growing from our new circumstances.  

Meanwhile, please avail yourself to the virtual offerings (worship, formation, connections), clergy messages, music, formation, community life, outreach, and staying informed details in the weekly eNews and worship service leaflets. Spread the word and invite others to join in any and all.

On this past Tuesday night, the Vestry, Treasurer, Head of School, and Clergy met via ZOOM video conference. From our time, I gleaned a collective sentiment of prayer, concern, faith, hope, and extraordinary need for fostering better connections throughout GSL. Our conversation was rooted in the baptismal call to follow Jesus and priority to care for another, always.

Very soon, expect to be contacted by members of the Vestry, Clergy-Staff Team, and Lay Pastoral Care Ministers simply to check-in, learn of any support that might be helpful, and pass along any pastoral or other concerns to the clergy and staff. If you are new and uncertain as to whether or not we know how to reach you, contact either me, Stewardship Associate Chapman Morrow (cmorrow [at] gracestlukes [dot] org, 901.252.6328), or share your information at gracestlukes.org/online-visitor-card. All that we are and all that we offer will keep GSL strong and sustainable through and beyond this season.

Whenever asked about the current state of life at GSL, I am quick and delighted to respond: We are not closed. Instead, we are becoming more open, humbled, and courageous in abiding with God and living by the faith that lives within us. Let us hold the human family in our prayers, trust that all shall be well, and live more deeply into what it means to be the Church, the body of Christ, for the world.

God’s peace and blessings, 

Ollie+

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org 

March 17 UPDATE on COVID-19

Tuesday, March 17, 2020
A Message from the Rector
UPDATE regarding the COVID-19 Outbreak and Mindfulness at GSL

Dear Grace-St. Luke’s Parish Community:

Grace-St. Luke’s Church is committed faithfully to doing its part of joining in the advised variety of practices and precautions that might slow the spread of the coronavirus. While we were able to conduct worship and formation offerings in person on Sunday, March 15 at the corner of Peabody and Belvedere, we now must temporarily suspend all in-person worship, formation, and fellowship offerings on Sundays as well as on weekday mornings and evenings. Due to our limited capacity, the Food Pantry is temporarily closed, but currently we will continue a “brown bag” plan for our More Than A Meal program, as well as continue to provide space for recovery meetings.

In light of this painful though necessary change to our common life at GSL, I have promising news about how we will continue to be the Church, the body of Christ: online worship and spiritual formation offerings for adults, youth, and children, ways to both connect and care for parishioners, and evolving meaningful efforts to support the destitute, needy, and marginalized in our community will be announced, very soon.

Our clergy-staff team is working with various resources to provide an evolving plan to more creatively support the faith journeys of parish households and foster connection in this bizarre season. Our team will practice self-care by working from home, being available during normal office hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) via phone and email, and meeting (virtually) to support one another. To ensure that our hourly staff team members continue to receive wages, staying current with or making your pledge, and additional contributions are more important than ever. Such giving also continues to support parish administration and operations. If you have a pastoral need, contact a member of the clergy. For hospitalizations or emergencies concerning a member, please contact the 24/7 Clergy-on-Call phone line at 901-252-6334.

I want to stress that by no means are we “closing.” Instead, we are becoming more open, humbled, and courageous in abiding with God and walking by the faith that lives within each of us. In this season of navigating fears and anxieties, followers of Jesus are called to be wise and to boldly entrust our hope in the One who promises to never leave or forsake us and who heals all things with love. Let us hold the human family in our prayers and trust that all shall be well.

God’s peace and blessings, 

Ollie+

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher
Rector
901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org 

March 13 UPDATE on COVID-19

Friday, March 13, 2020
A Message from the Rector 

UPDATE regarding the COVID-19 Outbreak and Mindfulness at GSL

Dear Grace-St. Luke’s Parish Community:

This morning, the diocesan clergy had a conference call with our bishop, the Right Reverend Phoebe A. Roaf, to discuss diverse options for how to proceed in our respective faith communities with Sunday and weekday offerings in ways that are safe, reasonable, and permissible by health professionals, government officials, and church leadership. While some communities already have closed facilities, a majority of the larger Episcopal and other congregations in the Memphis region have elected to offer the same or similar offerings for Sunday, March 15. Throughout The Episcopal Church and in almost every space worldwide, teams are making painful short and long term decisions, including how to offer programs online or remotely, reduce aspects, and even cancel events until more is known about the overall situation of the pandemic.

The following is what to expect on Sunday, March 15 at GSL:

  • Holy Eucharist at 8, 10:30, and 5:30 with distribution in one kind: bread.
  • Our tradition upholds a belief (concomitance) that to receive the Blessed Sacrament in one kind is to fully partake in the Eucharistic feast.
  • Stay tuned for a notice about a “livestream” of the 10:30 service to be posted at www.gracestlukes.org/news/COVID19 by 2 p.m. Saturday, March 14.
  • Coffee and water will be available 8:45-9:15 and after the 10:30 service, because food preparation and distribution are among the strongly advised limitations. Sadly, we will not be able to enjoy the fine and popular breakfast by the Crossmen!
  • The 9:15 parish hall forum will be a “Conversation with the Clergy: Navigating Fear and Anxiety in Seasons of Uncertainty,” and children and youth classes will be offered.
  • Following the current plan at Idlewild Presbyterian Church, our 4:00 More-Than-A-Meal ministry will provide brown-bag, to-go meals to ten persons at a time in a walk-through fashion.

In light of this schedule and a fast-changing societal health situation, it is important that each of us practice self-care and encourage the same by fellow parishioners, especially those with vulnerable or respiratory health conditions. Meanwhile, the clergy, members of pastoral care teams, and the staff proactively will reach out to parishioners via phone, email, notes, and video calls to check-in and offer any support needed.

On Monday, the clergy expect updated direction from the Bishop as to what we may or may not be able to offer “in-house” for the near future. Thereafter, I will consult with our wardens and members of the clergy-staff team to inform how GSL will proceed and update you accordingly. If you have questions or concerns along the way, please contact me.

In this season and always, let us rely on Jesus and the faith that live in us, love and care for one another, and hold the human family in our prayers. God’s peace and blessings,

Ollie+ 

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher
Rector 901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org

March 11 UPDATE on COVID-19

Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Dear Grace-St. Luke’s Parish Community:

Today, I write with an important albeit lengthier update to my February 29th message (available here) regarding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In this Lenten season of faith, full of diverse precautions advised by leadership throughout The Episcopal Church and health organizations, I am mindful of questions and concerns there may be about current and any changes in communal practices in life at GSL. Yesterday, I discussed these with Senior Warden Simon Wadsworth, Junior Warden Charlie Pazar, and Clerk Wight Boggs of the Vestry.

The following are reminders and some changes for us all, informed by counsel from our bishop, The Right Reverend Phoebe A. Roaf, ongoing discussions with healthcare professionals, abiding prayer, and faith in Jesus who can bear our fears and anxieties and bring healing to sickness.

Washing Hands. Prayerfully wash hands several times a day, especially before worship, meetings, and other events, and use hand sanitizer. In addition to handwashing and sanitizing by Eucharistic ministers, hand sanitizer is available throughout the public spaces.

Offering Peace. The early Christians began this liturgical custom by offering a “holy kiss” to one another; it has evolved to include handshakes, hugs, and a solemn bow. Because many now are taking certain personal precautions and may not want to be touched (handshake or hug) during worship, I invite us to observe the practice of a solemn bow. The bow is a gesture of reverence toward another created in the image of God and a custom in many cultural spaces and religious traditions including ours. Some places are suggesting a wave, nod, smile, elbow or fist bump, or the two-finger peace sign. Any form would be acceptable when greeting the clergy before and after worship. Personally, at the doors, I am glad to shake hands, if that is your preference.

Receiving Communion. Hands are a common source of infection. We will substitute homemade bread with wheat wafers to reduce handling between the baker and the distributor. Intinction (the dipping of the bread into the wine) is not a sanitary substitute for drinking from the chalice (“common cup”). Intinction actually increases chances for germs on the hand and fingers to enter the chalice: multiple studies show that the silver in chalices, the alcohol content of wine (GSL uses port), and the proper wiping and rotating of the chalice by the Eucharistic minister eliminates most germs that come from our mouths. To receive the wine after receiving the bread, guide the chalice to your lips by holding its base. If you will not be receiving wine, place your arms across your chest and nod your head to the chalice. Anglican/Episcopal tradition upholds that to receive communion in one kind is to fully partake in the Eucharistic feast. This belief (concomitance) affirms the Blessed Sacrament received in one kind is just as efficacious as it is when received in both kinds; one’s full communion is effected when one receives either the consecrated bread only, the consecrated wine only, or both together.

Self-Care. Healthcare professionals advise that if you are sick, dispositioned to becoming sick, or might compromise another, please stay home and worship there, as we hold your absence from the pews in prayer. Available online are Sunday worship leaflets, sermons, and most parish hall forums. A member of the clergy or a Eucharistic Visitor would be glad to visit your home when both you and they are not contagious; please call the church office to make arrangements.

Meanwhile, I will pay close attention to the outbreak situation and provide any updates based on the counsel of our bishop and other advisers concerning gatherings for worship, fellowship, and special events. For more information, visit the websites of The Episcopal Church, Episcopal Relief & Development, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you have questions, concerns, or simply would like to reflect on where you are in this season, please contact me or another of your pastors through the church office (901.272.7425).

In this time of worldwide precautions, fear, and anxiety, it is even more important that we gather in faith as the Church, the body of Christ, for spiritual formation and celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, and to hold the human family in our prayers.

God’s peace and blessings,
Ollie+

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org

A Message from the Rector Regarding the Coronavirus

February 28, 2020
Dear Grace-St. Luke’s Parish Community:

In light of the situation of the spread of the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus), increasing concerns about the spread of infectious diseases, and questions you may have about precautions being taken at Grace-St. Luke’s, please know that we are being mindful of suggested precautions. This especially will be the case when we gather for worship and more related to our common life.

Click here to read today’s statement from our bishop, The Right Reverend Phoebe A. Roaf, and the other bishops of The Episcopal Church in Tennessee or click here to read Episcopal Relief & Development’s Faith-based Response to Epidemics.

In addition to hand-washing and sanitizing by all who administer communion, hand sanitizer dispensers will be available throughout our buildings including the worship space. Hands are a common source of infection, and intinction (the dipping of the bread into the wine) is not a sanitary substitute for drinking from the chalice. Therefore, the following is the new practice for receiving communion at GSL: To receive the wine after receiving the bread, guide the chalice to your lips. You also may simply place your arms across your chest to indicate that you will not be receiving the wine; to receive communion in one kind is to fully partake in the Eucharistic feast.

If you have questions about the bishops’ statement, the Episcopal Relief and Development response, or practices adopted at GSL, I will be around for breakfast and coffee hour, or feel free to contact me or another member of the clergy through the church office.

In this time of precautions and possible anxiety, it is even more important that we gather in faith as the Church, the body of Christ, for spiritual formation and celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, and to hold the human family in our prayers.

I look forward to spending tomorrow, the first Sunday in Lent with you.

Faithfully,

Ollie+

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org

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