Friday, August 14, 2020


The Rt. Rev. "Kee" Sloan, bishop of Alabama, announced today that churches of the diocese may resume in-person worship on September 6, 2020. Find the bishop's letter here . 

Churches of the Diocese of Alabama (the upper two-thirds of the state) have been closed to inside services since March 13. This is the longest Episcopal churches have been closed in the state in the history of the diocese. Episcopal churches in the state were closed, briefly, once before, and that was by federal authority right after the Civil War.

Bp. Sloan is following the guidance of Dr. Fauci and of the CDC in setting standards for re-opening:  no congregational singing, no coffee hour, seating every other row and six feet apart except for family groups, and communion by bread. 

Most churches in the diocese have been conducting services on-line for several months now. They may choose to continue this. Today's directive gives an option. Local churches are free to have in-house and/or online worship services.

It will be interesting to see how the local churches in Alabama handle this restrictive re-opening. A cursory observation of churches in South Carolina shows that most continued on-line only services. Relatively few resumed in-person services. Of the few I observed that did resume inside services, the congregations appeared sparse. It seemed as if most people were reluctant to return to congregational worship. 

NOTES,  14 AUGUST 2020

My beloved grandparents always insisted the first two weeks of August were "the Dog Days" of the year. No one knew why these weeks were called this. It was just tradition. It was a bitter sweet time of the year as I was growing up and remains so. The daylight hours are noticeably shorter, heralding autumn's cooler air not far ahead. Yet, by August, most southerners were suppressed by four or five months of relentlessly hot and humid weather. A sad note at this time is that the mockingbirds do not sing in the Dog Days because they are molting. Other birds may sing but none compares to the quality and quantity of the mockingbird. I have lots of birds in my garden because I provide them all with their favorite fresh foods. My neighbors have bird feeders. I do not, yet the birds prefer my garden and I am glad.

I wish I had some good news to impart to you, dear blog reader, but, alas, I have not. Our hard times are getting harder all along. Millions of people face hunger, eviction from their homes, and loss of jobs. The economy is in a depression. Life as we knew it has been turned upside down in almost every aspect. The pandemic is growing worse by the minute. 

In the Dog Days (August 1-14), three and a half million people in the world fell victim to the coronavirus. According to Worldometers, there are now 21,104,426 reported cases in the world. As for deaths, 80,522 people died of the plague in the last two weeks, for a total of 758,062. The trajectory of cases and deaths in the world is upward.

The United States continues to be the hottest spot in the world for COVID-19. The U.S. has by far the most cases and deaths; and the trajectory is up. In the Dog Days, 781,603 new cases were reported in the U.S., for a total of 5,416, 829. At this rate, the U.S. will soon reach an infection rate of 2% of the population. In the same period, the U.S. listed 15,133 deaths in the pandemic, for a total of 170,439. This averages to slightly more than 1,000 deaths a day in the U.S. We can expect this to worsen as fall and winter arrive.

South Carolina continues to be a "hot spot" in a "hot spot." Cases there jumped 19% in the Dog Days, up 16,337 to a total of 103,909. This is above the national average. Deaths in SC in the two weeks numbered 519, a 31% jump, to a total of 2,186. Deaths in SC were three times the national average.

The pandemic is also soaring in Alabama, as it is in all of the lower south. In the first two weeks of August, AL reported 19,795 new cases for a total of 105,557. This is well above the national figures. Deaths in AL numbered 325 for a total of 1,890. The death rate in AL is twice the national average. Both SC and AL should sound the alarm to take stronger measures to mitigate this highly contagious and deadly disease. 

Infections and deaths continue to rise in Charleston County, but at a much slower pace. In the last two weeks, the county reported 1,386 new cases for a total of 12,631. This is about 100 new cases a day. In this period, 55 people died in Charleston Co. of the virus, for a total of 209. This was a shocking 36% rate (for 2 weeks!).

On another note, what about the litigation in SC? As of yesterday, there had been no movement on the three issues pending action:  1-whether Judge Dickson will grant a stay pending appeal, 2-whether the SC Court of Appeals will agree to expedite the appeal to the SC Supreme Court, and 3-whether the U.S. Court of Appeals will hold a hearing (or go straight to a written decision). I have not a clue on when any of this will occur. We simply have to wait for the very slow wheels of justice to turn.

My best wish is that all goes well with you and yours. Life goes on, even in the hard times. My one grandchild is preparing for the school year at Lugoff-Elgin High School, in Kershaw County. There, students have the choice of attending class in person or doing the work at home on the computer. On another personal note, happy anniversary to my wife Sandy. It was fifty-four years ago today that we stood before the Rev. Lex Matthews in the Chapel of the Resurrection of the Episcopal Student Center at Florida State University in hot and humid Tallahassee. What an adventure we have had.

So, what to do as the dark night darkens? First, we must care for ourselves and each other. Millions of people out there are hurting. We must do what we can to see them through. At the very least, we could send money to our local food banks. Use your imagination to come up with creative ways for being God's people in the world. This is the time of need. This is the time to act.

And, always remember, friend, we are here for the living of this hour. May we all find the strength and courage to march onward through whatever trial stands ahead. Peace.