Last night, Mayor of Dallas Eric Johnson declared a state of emergency in response to the threat posed by COVID-19. This echoes the direction of Dallas County officials who have directed the cancellation of all large gatherings in our area. This is in line with the strong recommendations of the medical and scientific community, who are desperately trying to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus. It is likely that there are many more carriers of this virus than are yet diagnosed, and the surest way to slow its transmission is to dramatically limit contact between people.
Therefore, I have decided to cancel all gatherings, events, and meetings at Transfiguration through Tuesday, March 31. This decision comes with the consent of Bishop Wayne Smith, and with the knowledge and support of the wardens and staff. This temporary policy includes all worship services and all types of meetings, from committees to choir rehearsals. The office will not be open, though some staff will be on site during normal hours to maintain essential operations, and all staff members will be checking email and voicemail regularly to stay as connected as possible and learn of pastoral needs.
Instead of gathering physically this weekend, we will livestream a Eucharist at 9 a.m. on Sunday via our Facebook page, and then make it available for viewing on the website beginning at 11:15. I know it’s not the same as being with one another, and I’m deeply sorry. Worship is a balm against the anxiety of this hour, but I also know that our Lord may be praised anywhere, and we can know the peace and love of Christ in our homes.
We will also livestream the Wednesday Lenten programs the next two weeks. Details will be forthcoming, but it will most likely occur through our Facebook page, where viewers can interact with comments and questions. We think the speakers are important, and we want to maintain during Lent, to the greatest extent possible, our work of spiritual formation and discipleship.
Additionally, all Eucharistic visitations have been cancelled, as our highest priority is the preservation of the health of our members, particularly those who are most susceptible to this virus. We hope to resume services and visits beginning April 1
I ask for your help, friends, in this hour of need. First, if you know of someone who may not regularly check email, will you please contact them to share this information? We want everyone to learn of this decision as soon as possible.
Second, I hope you will observe your own social distancing for the next few weeks. For this large-scale effort to succeed in slowing the spread of the virus in our city, state, and country, we will all need to alter our behavior for a while. Please don’t make unnecessary trips to public places. Don’t think you’re healthy, and therefore somehow immune. Even if we don’t suffer the worst of the virus, we can unintentionally pass it along to someone who will.
Third, we’ll be sharing resources in coming days about ways to stay engaged remotely, so please stay tuned. This will likely include videos, blogs, and other online resources, shared via email and the Transfiguration Facebook page.
Finally, we need to be the church together through this, and remember the new commandment to love one another like Christ loves. That means calling and checking on one another, and bringing specific needs to the attention of the clergy and other leaders. There will likely come a time when some of us are quarantined and need the support of loving friends. For others, the fears of this hour may become overwhelming, and they will need someone to talk to. We certainly all need to be praying with and for one another, so I ask you to continue that sacred work. You may contact the pastoral emergency phone at any time at 214-296-2748.
I have faith that the Spirit will provide what we need to be the Body of Christ in this moment of tribulation. So be wise, but don’t be afraid. Remember to pray, and also to wash your hands. And hold fast to love, which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).”
Fr. Casey became the fourth rector of Transfiguration in October 2014 after having served churches in Rhode Island and Houston. He is married to Mtr. Melody Shobe, also an Episcopal priest, and they have two daughters, Isabelle and Adelaide. Fr. Casey grew up in Temple, Texas, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. His Master of Divinity was earned at Virginia Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee). He loves playing golf, road cycling, hiking, brewing beer, and working in his yard. You can contact Father Casey by email.