COVID Continued: Sick Clergy and Sunday Morning Plan B
In recent weeks we’ve been hearing frequent reports of people testing positive for COVID, including in many cases, clergy in charge of Sunday worship. The good news is that the cases we’re hearing about are not scary or dangerous, though they’re often miserable. The bad news is that Sunday plans sometimes have to change with little notice, under the leadership of a cleric who is too sick to concentrate.
So, what happens when a priest who is slated to lead worship gets sick?
First, a key observation: ours is a God of mercy and compassion. No one should have to trawl the supply list from a sick bed; and God will forgive if the best option is to cancel services for a Sunday—just as we do in winter when storms make the roads unsafe.
If a priest is unable to lead services as planned, the priest should feel free to ask a warden, parish administrator, or vestry member to help. The options include:
- Seek a supply priest—The bishop’s office maintains a directory of priests who have expressed a willingness to serve as visiting celebrants (“supply priests”), and we’re happy to share it—the only reason it’s not on the web is we don’t want to share it with spam-bots. Any staff member can email you a copy on request. It’s usually, though not always, possible to find a supply priest, but it’s not the only option.
- Offer Morning Prayer. This would take some advance planning so that there were lay people trained and comfortable leading, but it’s a great way to spread worship leadership beyond the clergy.
- Suspend services and invite people to visit a neighboring church. We are one Body in Christ, and it can be a fine thing when we are reminded that we must, and can, turn to one another.
- Direct people to an online live stream worship opportunity. If you stream your services, make sure the Asset Map shows that! Find instructions here. If you need to find streaming services in your area, consult the map and under “search” select “live stream” in the “languages” field. Also remember that the Cathedral belongs to all of us and streams Sunday worship weekly here.
Your diocesan staff is here to help. Call us when you need us—some of us are ordained and may be able to show up in a pinch, and all of us are here to make sure that God’s people in Maine are cared as well as we all can manage. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.—Julian of Norwich