Dearly beloved in the Lord,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
It is with a profound sadness, but also with a great sense of deference to the well-being of each and every one of you, as well as all those with whom we might come into contact, that I notify you that His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, has directed the closing of all parishes in the diocese for a period of no less than 2 weeks. This means there will be NO services, not even Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings, nor any gathering of any size at church, during this time. With His Eminence's specific blessing this means St. Tikhon Mission in Parker will not be open and all services & on-site activities are cancelled until Sunday, April 5, at the earliest. Naturally, given the fluid and seemingly constantly-changing nature of this pandemic & response, it is entirely possible that the timeline may slip further.
I wanted to get this notice out immediately, and therefore have not yet compiled a list of alternative options (e.g. links to livestreams of services, materials we can read in private, online "virtual" meetings, etc.). I do plan to send a message within the next day or 2 with these options. That being said, I reiterate that we should all incorporate into our daily cycle the prayer issued by the Holy Synod that I sent out previously.* Additionally, a part of our regular rule, but one prayer to which we should pay extra attention these days, that of the Optina Elders:
O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to Thy holy Will. At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to Thy holy Will. Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down from Thee. Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening them. O Lord, grant me the strength to endure the trials of the coming day and all the events that take place during it. Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love. Amen.
Please also reference the following messages from our hierarchs, all issued within the past 24 hours:
I particularly would like to highlight the deferential tone in the directives from our shepherds, those to whose care Christ our God has entrusted us. I, personally, have experienced a wide range of emotions over the last several days, including skepticism, fear, concern, compassion, and resignation, and so greatly appreciate their guidance in these matters.
Through their leadership I've come to terms that in 2020 our Lenten ascetic struggle, as His Beatitude noted, will be to emulate the early desert fathers that we read about, perhaps most notably in the Life of St. Mary of Egypt, who would venture out into the desert alone during the Lenten season. Thus, one of the most important ascetic virtues comes to mind: obedience, both to our hierarchs and also to the civil authorities to whom our hierarchs have "rendered unto Caesar." Although not a persecution by the government for our faith, we are being limited by "Caesar" in how we practice our faith, but ultimately in a temporary way for the good of the whole. Without making a political statement here on whether this is palatable for any of us, may we each find personal humility to comply with the orders to stay at home, avoid unnecessary contact with others, and ultimately practice "social distancing" for the good of each of God's children, in the sincere hope that we can "flatten the curve" enough that we will be allowed to reopen the church in time to celebrate Christ's Holy Passion & Resurrection.
I ask for your prayers & forgiveness for me, a sinner, as well as for our parish, our immediate community, our country, and for the entire world in these most unique and trying days!
With love in Christ,
* O God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation visible and invisible, in thine ineffable goodness, look down upon us, thy people gathered in thy Holy Name. Be our helper and defender in this day of affliction. Thou knowest our weakness. Thou hearest our cry in repentance and contrition of heart. O Lord who lovest mankind, deliver us from the impending threat of the Corona Virus. Send thine angel to watch over us and protect us. Grant health and recovery to those suffering from this virus.
Guide the hands of physicians and preserve those who are healthy. Enable us to continue to serve our suffering brothers and sisters in peace that together we may glorify thy most honorable and majestic name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.