New York.- (GreekNewsOnline)
In a message issued on Wednesday, May 13, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA announced that it has developed a common toolkit to facilitate that gives information to the individual parish about the situation in the specific state and township and what is allowed by law.
“The system takes into account the plentitude of differing realities in the various regions, jurisdictions, and demographics throughout the country. It considers the wide-ranging parish sizes, local policies, and climate conditions. It provides each bishop assistance in determining a way forward that, when applied properly and tailored for specific parishes, leads to the best practice for a given scenario”, the statement says.
The full text is as follows:
“In this time of global pandemic, the majority of the Faithful of our Churches have been withheld from receiving Holy Communion and attending Divine Services in order to safeguard their health and the health of others. We, the Hierarchs of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, are taking action to restore the possibility of Holy Eucharist to the “lambs” of Christ, in accordance with His word.
We are aware that the course of the disease is not certain by any means. The structures that were put into place for Holy Week and the Holy Pascha, and which remain the common practice to this moment, may be necessary again in the future, depending on the best public health assessments and legal requirements.
Nevertheless, we have heard the pained cry of the Faithful who, although faithful in their devotion, as witnessed by virtual participation in broadcast services and their continuing stewardship support of the Church, have felt an intense separation from Holy Eucharist and their Communities. Therefore, in order to meet the spiritual nourishment of our Orthodox Christians in this time of the careful and considered re-opening of societal functions – with all the diverse legal restrictions among varying civil jurisdictions and with recommendations from public health experts – we have developed a common toolkit to facilitate the nourishing of the Faithful through the Most Pure Body and Most Precious Blood of our Risen God and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, and return to liturgical services.
The system takes into account the plentitude of differing realities in the various regions, jurisdictions, and demographics throughout the country. It considers the wide-ranging parish sizes, local policies, and climate conditions. It provides each bishop assistance in determining a way forward that, when applied properly and tailored for specific parishes, leads to the best practice for a given scenario. Thus, there will be instances where one parish might be able to open while conditions remain unsafe for another. For this reason, it is of utmost importance for faithful to attend only their “home” parish during this period of restoration and follow the directives of their presiding bishop. Attending a neighboring parish can elevate risk, shift the aforementioned considerations, and contribute to regression.
Finally, we acknowledge that this is a first step in a long journey, in which we rely on the Mercy of God. With faith in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that better days will soon be seen, and the resumption of the normative practices of the worshipping Church may return to their full exercise.
It was the Lord Himself Who commanded the Apostles to feed the Five Thousand when He said: “You give them something to eat.”2 And it was the Disciples who distributed the blessed five loaves and two fishes to the assembled, after they were arranged in groupings by the Lord.3 We are following His example, asking that you also arrange yourselves to partake of the Holy Eucharist parish by parish, so that you also “may eat and all be filled” as were the Five Thousand.4
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
For more information, please visit www.assemblyofbishops.org/
METROPOLIS OF ATLANTA
The Metropolis of Atlanta that covers southern states has set a target date of re-opening the churches on Sunday, May 31, 2020. In a letter, Metropolitan Alexios tells the priests and parish council boards that there is sufficient time to clean and disinfect the church, prepare social distancing markers, organize ourselves, so that we will be ready.
“This is not a mandatory date to re-open, but the earliest date that the parishes in our Metropolis may open if conditions are met”, his Eminence clarifies.
Alexios letter states among other things the following:
“I greet you my beloved with love and joy in the name of our Resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I pray that this message finds you well, as we arrive to the mid-point of Pentecost!
Our society today is dealing with the pandemic of COVID-19, which is an infectious and deadly virus. We must consistently think about other people: relatives, co-workers, strangers–as well as ourselves, in order to create a safe society. In our great country, it is impossible for us all to be the same, for even the land, that we live in has mountains, valleys, small and large cities. Each place has different requirements and different rules to live by, for all to be safe.
We all feel great pain that we are not able to attend church services and receive the sacraments and for this reason, we believe that the time has arrived to begin thinking about re-opening our churches. Therefore, in order to re-open our churches we must STRICTLY follow the National, State and local regulations, orders and directives. Our God-protected Metropolis spans eight states, which contain small and large communities, not to mention our monasteries. As such, we cannot give one set of directions for all to follow.
Therefore, next week we will host conference calls set up via Zoom for parishes in each of our States to talk to each Priest and two members of their parish council. Following the conference call, I ask for each Priest and the two parish council members to discuss the details of implementation with their Parish Council, taking into account all regulations pertaining specifically to them and to decide accordingly. These meetings will give our parishes the opportunity to inform us of their understanding of their State’s regulations their responsibilities to their faithful, or to clarify any questions parishes may have. (For detailed information on next week’s State meetings, please read the instructions by clicking HERE.)
Once your parish has ensured compliance with all regulations, beginning Sunday, May 31, 2020 you may decide to re-open your church for in person worship.
Metropolis of Chicago Takes
Actions to Respond to COVID-19
The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago announced on Wednesday, May 13, series of actions it has taken regarding the operations of the Metropolis, its participation in the nationwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its support of parishes and parishioners in need.
Specifically, the following actions have been agreed to and/or implemented:
The St. Iakovos Retreat Center to be repurposed into a first responder quarantine site. Called “Project Agape,” health care workers, EMT personnel, firefighters, and law enforcement officers exposed to the COVID-19 virus and required to enter a 14-day quarantine period can take residence at the St. Iakovos Retreat Center free of charge. During the 14-day time period, the Retreat Center will provide lodging and non-medical basic need services. On advice of medical professionals, the Retreat Center staff has established a safety protocol to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and spread. Project Agape will run through June 30, 2020. Thereafter, the Retreat Center will be professionally cleaned with a level 5 cleaning and remain vacant for three weeks prior to re-opening to the general public in late summer.
The Metropolis has reduced its FY 2020 operating budget by 12 percent. The Metropolis Council has adjusted its 2020 operating budget to implement reductions totaling approximately $152,000. The Metropolis further reports it generated an aggregate surplus in unrestricted operations of more than $252,000 for the fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The prior years’ balanced budgets and surpluses were the result of cost cutting decisions, enhanced financial controls and administrative practices – including implementation of independent audits – and increased donations to the Metropolis over both fiscal years. The revised FY 2020 operating budget reflecting the 12 percent reduction can be accessed HERE.
More than $125,000 has been raised for the COVID-19 Parish Relief Fund. Individual donors, parishes and major gift-givers have made generous donations since the campaign launched on April 1. One hundred percent of the monies received will flow directly to parishes experiencing financial distress and will be audited as part of the Metropolis’ annual independent audit. Anyone interested in making a donation can do so by visiting our COVID-19 Parish Relief Fund page.
Philoptochos ramps up mask-making campaign for humanitarian workers. The Philoptochos Society of the Metropolis of Chicago has begun a campaign to sew, assemble and distribute 10,000 cloth masks by December 31. Called “Masks Matter,” the campaign plans to donate masks to service groups engaged in humanitarian work. To date, more than 2,000 masks have been created and distributed.
The Metropolis to supply and deliver food to economically disadvantaged families in the Chicago area. Fifty families throughout the Chicago area will receive free non-contact delivered groceries on a weekly basis. The program will be based at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church on Chicago’s west side, and administered through the 26 parishes of the Chicago area. The program is made possible by the generous support of a coalition of retail businesses. The program eventually will scale up to include a food truck, and to distribute masks, gloves, cleaning products, ready-to-eat meals and hygiene products for the homeless, among other humanitarian services.
A needs assessment on the parish level to be completed soon. The Metropolis is working closely with its 58 parishes to track funds received from the Paycheck Protection Program established by the CARES Act, as well as state and local funding sources. The Metropolis also is working to determine the financial impact on parishes resulting from the pandemic. Once the needs assessment is complete, funds raised through the COVID-19 Parish Relief Fund will be distributed to the parishes most affected by the pandemic.
Connections between employers and displaced workers are being facilitated by the Metropolis. The Metropolis is working with local employers to publicize employment opportunities and specific job postings for those who are unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.
“The generous, creative and tireless energy of our community in response to the pandemic is truly humbling and inspiring. In this paschal season, these acts remind us that we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us,” said His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael. “I am proud of the work of the faithful of the Metropolis, and pledge that, throughout this crisis, we will continue to make decisions that ultimately make the body, heart and soul of our Church stronger than we found it.”