Tuesday, March 31, 2020





NOTES, 31 MARCH



The plague spreads. The night darkens. The fears intensify. We are plunging evermore into the grip of a microscopic organism whose only will is procreation by any host possible. This is arguably the worst crisis in American (and world) history since the Second World War. No one wanted this. No one caused it. But, here we are. This is our hour. What matters now is how we, as individuals, nations, and collective humanity, respond to this emergency.

The numbers are grim. As of today, there are 801,400 cases of COVID-19 in the world. 38,743 people have died of it around the globe. In America, there are now 164,610 cases and 3,175 deaths. In South Carolina, there are 925 cases and 18 deaths while in Alabama, 947 cases and 11 deaths.

To give some perspective, just one week ago (Mar. 23) the U.S. counted 46,000 cases. That is a rise of 118,610 cases in one week, or nearly three times as many. In the week, SC went from 298 to 925 cases, three times as many. AL went from 196 to 947, four times as many. This trend is terrifying.

All signs indicate vigorous spread of the virus in the next few weeks at the very least. Predicting the future of this pandemic is very difficult, even for the great experts who deal with all the statistics all the time. On Sunday, Dr. Fauci said millions of Americans will become infected and between 100,000 and 200,000 may die. On yesterday, Dr. Birx said this is a "best case" scenario. She implied the numbers could be considerably higher. That should send chills up our spines. These are people who know what they are talking about.

Meanwhile, everything (most things) stays closed as is at least until the end of April. I suspect this will be extended to the end of May.

I think at the moment we need to concentrate on two things. One is to stay at home and otherwise practice social distancing. All the experts are in agreement this is the best thing we can do now to stop the spread. The second thing we can do is to see to it that our health care workers have all the equipment and support they need. They are our front line soldiers in this war. It is immoral and unethical to send these brave people into battle without all the material they need to fight this unforgiving enemy. If only our politicians would stop playing politics and unite to care for the care givers. At the very least, we church people should be praying for the strength, courage, and safety of the best among us right now. Without them, we will lose this war. Pray for all hospital personnel, from the CEO to the janitor, for the EMTs, for the police. We must have their backs.

I am interested in knowing what local churches are doing in this moment of emergency. Many churches are providing online church services. What about other activities? At my local church, we are keeping stocked the very popular free food pantry we have in our parking lot (a big box on a pole). Also, some church members are going down the roster calling each member just to check in and to ask if they need anything from the store, pharmacy, post office, or the like. What is your local church doing? Let me know and maybe we can pool ideas that others could use. We have to think long term. In SC and AL Episcopal churches are closed for the month of April. I would not be surprised if this is extended into May. 

I hope this modest blog gives you a bit of support for the day. You, dear reader, are important to me. I would not be here otherwise. Around 500 people click on this space every day. I hope I am making at least a little difference for you.

Always remember we are here for the living of this hour. We did not ask for this. We did not see it coming. No one caused it. But, here we are and here is God with us. As I said, what matters now is how we respond to this crisis as children of God. Peace. 

Monday, March 30, 2020




NOTES, 30 MARCH 2020,
with update



Today is Monday, March 30, 2020. The plague worsens. The dark night darkens. Fears deepens. The coronavirus continues on its sweeping track at a fantastic pace. It has sickened at least 738,000 people in the world, probably many more. In America, it has infected at least 143,000 and killed 2,500. These numbers too are probably very low in reality. In South Carolina, there are at least 774 cases. There, 16 people have died of it. Alabama is reporting at least 827 cases and 10 deaths. To give some perspective, in just the last 6 days, the number of infections in the U.S. went up 3 times, in SC 3 times, and in AL 4 times.

The most remarkable and sobering remark of yesterday came from Dr. Anthony Fauci who said on the talk shows that millions of Americans would become infected and between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans might die of the virus. If he is right, and we have no reason to believe this expert to be wrong, we are in for a very rough next few months. We have not seen anywhere near the worst yet. 

Unfortunately we have a president who sees everything in terms of public relations, his own. After Fauci's remark, Trump actually said on TV 100-200,000 deaths would be "a very good job." One hundred to two hundred thousand Americans dying would be a "good job"? Such a remark is beyond appalling. It is ghastly. What kind of a national leader would say such a thing? But then, this sort of thoughtless cruelty we have come to expect from our president. He is himself. We have no right to expect him to be anything else. In this hour of national crisis the nation calls out in agony for a Washington, a Lincoln, an FDR, or even for goodness sake a W. after 9-11. Instead, we have Buchanan, a diddler who watched helplessly as the nation fell apart. Trump is a follower, not a leader. Right now the fight in Washington is between the forces for people and the forces for property. Trump is vacillating back and forth between them. Drs. Fauci and Birx are leading the charge for people. Let us hope and pray the president follows them.  

Thank God for the many public officials who are arising to meet the public needs in this dark hour of national crisis. I pray for Dr. Fauci every day. I am not sure he can survive the concerted right-wing smear campaign arising on the Internet right now. The lunatic right is after Fauci because he has the nerve to go behind Trump telling the nation the truth.

As many of you I am sure, I watched church on the Internet yesterday. Thank you, clergy of Grace Church Cathedral for as good an electronic church as we are going to get. The readings of yesterday were eerily timely. The Valley of Dry Bones is one of my favorite readings of the year. Dry bones are as lifeless as imaginable. No skin, no muscle, no tissue at all, just naked bone. Yet, "the bones came together, bone to its bone." Multitudes arose alive, as the Lord said, "I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live." Thus, what seemed to be completely dead and ended was not. The spirit of God brought new life in order to lead His people back to Israel. Likewise, Lazarus was dead. His life was ended. Then Jesus appeared on the scene. Mary was none too happy with him, in fact, chided him---if you had been here he would not have died. How many times do we feel that God has abandoned us? Jesus replied to her, "if you believed, you would see the glory of God." Jesus then called for Lazarus to come out, and he did. As with the bones, what seemed to be hopelessly ended forever was not really. The divine power of the universe gives us the life that we may not be able to see until we have the faith to open our eyes to it. The bones and Lazarus found new life, and so will we. We  may feel "dead" right now because we are helpless against the merciless virus. Nevertheless, we have to know the plague will come to an end one day. The transcendent power of God will bring us new life as he brought to people throughout the Bible. We may not be able to see it now, but we must have faith that it will happen.

Let's keep in mind we were made for the living of this hour. Peace.

______________________________________

UPDATE. The officials of St. Andrew's Church, of Mt. Pleasant, released this statement today:  "Steve Wood is off the ventilator and breathing on his own. Give thanks for this good news and continue to pray for Steve, his family, and those who care for him." Indeed, let us remember all those at St. Andrew's who have tested positive and who have been exposed to the virus.

Sunday, March 29, 2020




NOTES, 29 MARCH 2020



It is Sunday, March 29, 2020. The plague spreads. The night falls. However, no matter how dark the night, the light of the church shines. The church goes on as always through good times and bad. We are in a bad time, and it is going to get worse, much worse, I fear. 

The disease continues to spread in America unabated. As of yesterday, the known cases in the U.S. totaled 123,781 and deaths at 2,229. One week ago, there were 25,000 cases. So, in one week, the disease multiplied nearly five times. These are the known cases. Some expert say the real number is probably ten times the reported number because of lack of testing. If this is true, there are now actually more than a million people in the U.S. with the coronavirus.

The latest local figures also show skyrocketing infections. SC now stands at 645 cases and 15 deaths. Charleston County has 108 cases. The "hottest" spot in SC percentage wise is Kershaw County. This is worrisome personally because my only grandchild is there where her other grandparents live.

Alabama has quadrupled cases in one week, now up to 720 cases and 5 deaths. Birmingham is hard hit.

There is a news report that Florida officials are now stopping traffic going into the state and screening entrants for the virus. It should be the other way around, AL and GA should be stopping people leaving Florida since it is the "hottest" spot of the whole southeast.

My good friend who lives in downtown Chicago says the city is practically shut down in a desperate effort not to become the new New York. Even the famous lake front park is closed. He goes out only to get groceries. The CTA, public transportation, is still running although few people are riding.

There are some glimmers of good news here and there. My sister-in-law was tested and found negative to everyone's great relief. Bp Steve Wood seems to be improving in the ICU.

Anyway, it is Sunday, time to lift our voices and rejoice in God's blessings. They are all around us. For me, this is literally when I am in my garden. (Incidentally, my phone will not send pictures at the moment, so no photos of the garden. I am blaming this on the overload of the Internet. News reports say it is near capacity and may be on edge of crash.) I am going to watch church services on my computer and join in anyway.

My local church is offering a sermon on the Internet by the rector, the Rev. Robert Fowler. Catch it if you can here . St Luke's, of Jacksonville AL, is an historic church designed by Richard Upjohn, the architect of Trinity Church, Wall Street, and built in 1856 of heart-of-pine. The altar stained glass windows were made by the same company that made the windows of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, in Charleston. This is only the second time in all its long life that St. Luke's has been closed on Sundays (the first was briefly after the Civil War).

I intend to watch Grace Church Cathedral of Charleston and the Washington National Cathedral later.

Let us remember, friends, that even in the increasingly frightening darkness all around us, we were made for the living of this hour. Peace.

__________________________________

Video of the day. Thank God there are leaders arising to help guide us through this unprecedented crisis. As it is turning out, the moral spokesman of the hour is Governor Andrew Cuomo, of NY. His speech to the NY National Guard on 27 March will go down as a great one in this national emergency. Although he was addressing the Guard, he was really talking to all of us Americans. Evoking Churchill, he told us the truth, he told us how hard it would be, and told us we would prevail. These are words we desperately need to hear right now.

See a video of Cuomo's stirring speech here .

Saturday, March 28, 2020





NOTES, 28 MARCH 2020



Life in the time of plague goes on. Greetings to you, dear blog reader. Here's a wish that you, your family and friends are well and safe. Mine are, at least so far.

Numbers of the disease continue to skyrocket with no sign of slowing down. As of this morning, there are at least 614,884 cases of COVID-19 in the world with 28,687 dead. The most deadly outbreak has been in Italy. The highest number of cases of infections is the United States, now with at least 104,837 cases and 1,704 deaths. South Carolina is reporting 539 cases and 13 deaths while Alabama is listing 639 cases and 3 deaths. In SC, Charleston County leads the list with 92 cases. To give some perspective of explosive growth, On March 1, the world counted 100,000 cases. That means in four weeks, the world has seen a six times growth rate, 100,000 to 614,884. There is no indication of slowing down although there are places that seem to be getting the spread under control, as South Korea.

The most chilling report on yesterday came from a study at the University of Washington that predicted 80,000 deaths in the U.S. by July unless drastic measures are taken soon to stop the spread of the virus. Find a report of that study here . If there have been 1,704 deaths so far, well, you can do the math. This is truly frightening. Let us pray to God this prediction does not come to pass.

Here in Alabama, the governor has finally ordered closure of all "non-essential" businesses in the state. Schools, colleges, beaches, restaurants, bars and the like had already been closed. It is interesting to see what the governor considered "essential," that is, the ones that could stay open. She declared essential to be: grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, gun stores, and state liquor stores. Yes, in Alabama, guns, ammunition, and liquor are essential, at least according to our governor.

What to do with your $1,200 windfall? As churches remain shut down, consider giving at least a part to your local church. It is probably suffering a decline in revenue too and is struggling to meet its budget. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us living in this dark hour are trying to get by the best way we can. As for me, I am spending a lot of time in my garden. I am tending it as never before. The garden needs it and I need it. My family and I are doing OK, and I hope the same for you. Being quarantined as this makes one realize what is important and what is unimportant in life. Perhaps this is the benefit of this dark hour. I miss church, as I imagine you do too. I will not take it for granted again. Peace.

_______________________________

Creepy video of the day. Historically rats are associated with plague. The Black Death of the Fourteenth Century was spread by fleas on rats. Well, rats are popping up in this plague, but in a different way. On Bourbon Street, rats have "gone crazy" from the effects of closures. If you are squeamish about rodents do not watch this video .    


Friday, March 27, 2020





NOTES, 27 MARCH 2020,
with updates



Greetings, dear reader, as we descend ever more into the darkening night. The plague is sweeping over us. Over a half million people in the world are known to have been infected by the coronavirus. Thousands have died. Yet, we are no where near the turning point. The United States has become the "hottest spot" on the globe with at least 85,749 known cases and 1,304 deaths. SC yesterday reported 456 cases and 9 deaths. AL is listing 501 cases and one death. In the south, the plague is exploding in Florida and Louisiana.

There is no new word on the condition of Bishop Steve Wood, of St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. The last public announcement from church officials came two days ago. Presumably, he is still in ICU on a ventilator.

South Carolina has not seen the worst of this. It is really only beginning. Although painful, it is wise of the authorities to order people to stay at home and to cancel Spoleto.

Churches should pay no attention to President Trump's dangerously foolish idea of seeing churches packed at Easter, which is just a couple of weeks off. The example of St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant should quash that notion. In Alabama, medical personnel are blaming the churches for creating one of the "hot spots" of the state, Lee County. See the report of this here . Common sense says all churches should remained closed to in-person gatherings until this plague has abated.

It is gratifying and comforting to see people all around the country stepping up to lead us in this moment of crisis. The president of the United States is simply incapable of wise leadership in this hour. In reality he is making things worse by his daily public relations performances of fantasy. I was disappointed to see Dr. Birx apparently fall victim to his bullying yesterday when she declared that NYC hospitals had all they needed when every single report from the hospitals themselves said the exact opposite. Now it looks as if only Dr. Fauci stands between us and the cliff. I pray for him every day.

In fact, all over America, the health care professionals are arising to the occasion: from the highest doctors, to the EMTs,  to the hospital maids and janitors. How fortunate we are to have these heroes. They are our first line of defense now and we should support them in every way we can.

A Prayer for Doctors and Nurses

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


As the night of the plague darkens, many people may experience a crisis of faith. This is a natural and common reaction to such a situation. Where is God? If God is all good, why if He allowing this to happen? Why does not He stop the plague? Why does not He answer our prayers for help? All of these are thoughts we are likely to have. 

I am reminded of Elie Wiesel's report of an incident he attended in World War II. One night at Auschwitz, a group of Jewish prisoners put God on trial, in absentia. The charge was that He had abandoned His people, that is, He had unilaterally broken the Covenant with Israel. A full trial was conducted with arguments on both sides. In the end, they convicted God of the charge. Then, right afterwards a rabbi called for evening prayers and they all prayed to the God they had just determined had abandoned them. This is faith in the darkest possible hour. And this is what we have to keep in mind as our hour darkens. God is with us even if we feel abandoned and lost.

Finally, I see small acts of grace all around every day. For instance, my sister, who lives in Bay St. Louis, was driving down the road two days ago and encountered what she assumed to be a funeral. A police car with light flashing was leading a long line of cars. She realized it was not a funeral when the parade turned into a large apartment complex. It was the teachers of the local elementary school. They had decorated their cars with names and messages (we miss you, we love you, etc.), balloons and the like. They drove slowly around blowing their horns and shouting encouragement to the children who came to their apartment windows, balconies and yards blowing kisses back. It made the day for those kids. They realized they had not been abandoned.

Let us remember we were made for the living of this hour. Peace.

___________________________________

UPDATE, 9:45 a.m.

Bishop Lawrence, of the Anglican diocese of South Carolina, has suspended all in-person church gatherings in the diocese at least until April 6.

___________________________________

UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.

St. Andrew's Church of Mt. Pleasant released this statement at 4:00 p.m. today:

"Steve did a breathing trial this morning that went well, though he is not quite ready to come off the ventilator. They are encouraged by his progress and think he will be off the ventilator soon.

Continue to pray for Steve, his family, and those that care for him."

Bp. Steve Wood has been in the ICU on a ventilator for seven days. The last two reports of his condition are positive. This is good news indeed.


Thursday, March 26, 2020





THREE SENIOR CLERGY
OF ST. ANDREW'S
HAVE TESTED POSITIVE



26 March, 9:00 a.m.

St. Andrew's Church, Mt. Pleasant SC, is now reporting on their website that three senior clergy have tested positive for the coronavirus. Find this information here . The three are:

Steve Wood, rector and bishop of the ACNA diocese of the Carolinas.

Anthony Kowbeidu, associate rector (on Mar. 23, DHEC said he was no longer infectious)

Randy Forrester, associate rector.

All three were presumably exposed to the virus on March 6 when attending a diocesan assembly at All Saints Church, Pawleys Island.

This means that hundreds, if not thousands of people at St. Andrew's may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

I will not give medical advice. All I can do is tell you what I would do as a parishioner under the same circumstances. If I had had communion from any one of these three clergy after 6 March or had had any close personal contact with any one of them, I would self-quarantine. I would get tested if any symptom associated with the disease manifests itself. Also, if I had attended the diocesan gathering on March 6, I would follow the same procedures.

As for Bishop Steve Wood, there is no new report today so far. The last report was yesterday. It indicated stability and some slight improvement. I will post new reports here as I receive them. Wood remains in ICU on a ventilator, now for the seventh day.

Wood obviously has a very serious case of the virus. Kowbeidu has been declared no longer infectious. For awhile it was thought Forrester may not have been infected. He is now listed as positive for the coronavirus.

If we needed any more evidence of why we should keep churches closed, the case of St. Andrew's is it. The Anglican Diocese of SC has not announced its closure policy after March 31. There has been no public word from Bishop Lawrence in the last nine days. The Episcopal diocese of SC has closed all churches to in-person gatherings until the end of April.
__________________________________

Meanwhile the virus is spreading as wildfire. Yesterday, SC reported 424 cases, 82 in one day. AL is now reporting 386 cases and 144 in one day (one day!). In NYC, a virus patient is dying one per hour (per hour!). More than 1,000 virus patients have died in the U.S. Infections and deaths are multiplying at a quickening pace.

The saddest picture of the day is the three desperate nurses at Mt. Sinai West dressed in garbage bags. Find it here . They have run out of protective equipment yet are soldiering on because it is their job. They are endangering their health. There is something very wrong when this is happening in the greatest city of the richest country in the world. The heroes of the hour are being reduced to desperate measures even as they face the peril of death. This should not be happening.

One ray of good news is that the U.S. Senate UNANIMOUSLY (96-0) passed the emergency funding bill. It is now in the House of Representatives awaiting final passage. When was the last time a house of Congress did anything unanimously? I take this as a sign of hope. Who would have thought it would take a microscopic organism to bring us together? 

Peace.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020





NOTES, 25 MARCH 2020,

with update



Greetings, dear reader, as we continue our journey through this night of crisis. None of us wanted to be here, but here we are. This is our moment in life.

The news about Bishop Steve Wood is not good. On yesterday, the Facebook page of the Diocese of the Carolinas had this posting:




Bp Wood has been in ICU on a ventilator since last Friday. This is his sixth day there. It appears to me as if he is fighting for his life. Let us all lift him and his family up in our prayers.

Keep checking back to this Facebook page for updates ( facebook.com/adoc.church/ ). You can also get updates from St. Andrew's Church. Go to their website and sign up for their weekly email newsletter.

On another note, the City of Charleston has ordered inhabitants to "stay at home" except for trips to get groceries, medical necessities, and to get exercise. However, many businesses have been exempted from the new regulations. Find an article about this here . Charleston is the first city in the United States to make this order.

The 2020 Lambeth Conference has also fallen victim to the coronavirus. The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that the Conference will not be held this year as had been planned. It has been moved to 2021; and the exact dates will be announced later. Find an article about this here .

Finally, we know things are really getting bad when Waffle House starts to close. It's code red. Find an article about this here .

We are descending ever more into the darkness. The virus is spreading quickly. As of yesterday, SC was up to 342 cases and Al up to 242. In the south, Louisiana is exploding. As we journey onward keep up the faith and courage and I will do the same. Peace.

_______________________________

Update, 11:15 a.m.

St. Andrew's Church issued a statement this morning, 25 March by email. It includes this:

"Today Steve's physicians and nurses have communicated that he is stable and slightly improved compared to yesterday."
______________________________

Newspapers in England are reporting that Prince Charles has tested positive for the coronavirus. Find a report here .

Tuesday, March 24, 2020





EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF SC SUSPENDS
IN-PERSON CHURCH UNTIL 30 APRIL



In case you missed it, the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina announced this afternoon the suspension of in-person church services until the end of April. The presiding bishop recently recommended stopping in-person services through Easter and a number of dioceses are opting to extend this to the end of the month. Easter is on April 12 this year. Yesterday, the bishop of Alabama announced closure through April. 

This is going to be hard on us, particularly us older ones who have spend our entire lives celebrating Easter, year in and year out without fail. I cannot imagine not going to church all through Holy Week and especially on Easter day. But then, in the "making lemonade" approach perhaps we can find new inner perspectives on the meanings of the season. And, when this is all over, we will all have a new love and respect for church and never take it for granted again. Some things remain always and some do not. Easter will occur. This is what is really important. Our assembling in our beloved church buildings this year will not. We will adjust. We will survive, and hopefully find new ways to thrive. 

Find the diocesan announcement of today here .

As of this moment, the Anglican diocese has not made a public statement about what they will do about in-person church after the end of March. I imagine they will be releasing a decision soon.




NOTES, 24 MARCH 2020




Greetings, dear reader, as we continue on our journey of faith in this dark hour. If this humble blog helps you get through the day, then fine. It certainly helps me get through the day. We are in trying times to say the least. Always remember, you are not alone. We are all in this together and we will get through it together. Just a few items today.

The latest report in the Post and Courier says that Bishop Steve Wood is still in the ICU on a ventilator but his x-rays show slight improvement. Find the article here . This would be his fifth day in the ICU if he were admitted last Friday. Let us pray for his speedy recovery.

I was glad to read in the article that some twenty parishioners spontaneously appeared outside the hospital with appeals to Heaven. I am still baffled by the lack of official response to Wood's condition. On yesterday, the St. Andrew's Church website said nothing new about Wood. I contacted a clergy person of the church but got no response about Wood's status. I can find no mention of Wood's health on any Anglican website, let alone appeals for prayers for his recovery. How can they all be ignoring the perilous condition of a major rector, and bishop, who is clinging to life in the ICU on a ventilator as he has been for five days? I do not understand this strange silence.

A television station has reported that two residents of the Bishop Gadsden retirement community, on James Island, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Find the report here .

I am coming to understand the personal effects of the virus. I have a brother and sister who live in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. My brother's wife, my sister-in-law, has a serious case of diabetes and goes to dialysis three days a week. Last Saturday, she complained of chills but no one paid much attention to it. On Monday morning she woke up with a fever of 102 degrees and could not go to her regular dialysis. This morning she still has fever. My brother plans to get her medical attention today. It seems to me there is a good chance she has the virus which means my brother and sister probably have it too

(Update. My brother took his wife to the hospital this a.m.. The personnel tested her for the virus but the results will not be available for four days. Her symptoms were not bad enough for admission. The doctors sent her home. This is hopeful.)

I saw on the morning news that the world continues to reel from the pestilence. The summer Olympics that had been scheduled in Tokyo has been postponed until next year. This is the first time in history an Olympics has been postponed.

Meanwhile, numbers of cases continue to climb by the minute in America, doubling every few days. The latest count in the U.S. is 46,000 cases. In South Carolina, as of yesterday, there were 298 cases and 5 deaths. In Alabama there are 196 cases today. All indications are the virus is just beginning to spread in our states. There is worse down the road.

Unfortunately our national leadership is all over the place in this national crisis. President Trump is simply incapable of leading the nation in this emergency. Great public leadership has two qualities, telling the truth and showing empathy. Men as Lincoln, FDR, and Churchill all had the qualities. Apparently, Trump is just not able to deal with truth or empathy and there is no point in hoping some day he will learn either. He has even turned the daily briefings into campaign rallies going on and on about what great work he is doing. My advice to everyone---do not listen to his nonsense. Look at the body language of the experts standing behind him. Our real leaders of the hour are Drs. Fauci and Birx. Listen to what they have to say. Yesterday, Dr. Fauci did not show up for the briefing and Trump went on interminably. This sent a chill up my spine. Fauci is our indispensable man of the hour. He is our momentary national treasure. If the president has given him the axe, well, we will remember in November. God only knows what would happen between now and then.

Stay well and keep up the courage and I will strive to do the same. Peace.

______________________________

Need an example of heroic Christ-like sacrifice? Take a look here .

Monday, March 23, 2020





VIDEO OF THE DAY



I want to share with you the best sermon I have heard in a long time in case you missed it. It is Bishop Mariann Budde's homily of yesterday, 22 March, at the Washington National Cathedral. 

The theme of yesterday's church readings was seeing. We see in different ways, we know in different ways. In this dark hour of pandemic, our world has turned upside down in so many ways. We see darkness and tragedy descending on us. No one wanted this crisis. No one made it. Yet it is here. Budde says if we are open to seeing things differently, we can respond in positive ways to the challenge that we may not be able to imagine now. We can make good come out of what seems to be all bad. These are words we need to hear right now. They certainly moved me to "see" our time of crisis in a new light.  

In my opinion, this is the sermon of the hour. These are the words we need to hear at this critical moment. I think it will help you also to "see" our dark hour in a new "light."


Find Budde's eloquent sermon here .


On an historical note, it is useful now to recall the Black Death. Bubonic plague descended on Europe in 1347. It was by far the worst pandemic in recorded history. A bacterial infection, it swept through every place as wildfire tormenting and killing people right and left. It is estimated that between 30 and 60 percent of Europeans died. It was so horrible and lethal that people commonly believed it was the end of the world. In a sense it was the end, of a world, but soon thereafter dawned a new world that people in the Fourteenth Century could not have imagined, what we know as modern civilization. Soon came the Renaissance (rebirth) and Reformation (reform). Along with those came the modern nation state, modern capitalism, the origins of modern science and technology, the great voyages of discovery and exploration, and so forth. The Black Death was unimaginably destructive but it was not the end of the world. 

While we bear in mind thoughts of the past and the future, however, we must now confront this plague and do all we can to stop its spread and alleviate the misery it is inflicting on people's lives everywhere. Peace. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020





BISHOP STEVE WOOD HOSPITALIZED,

with update, 22 Mar.



According to the Post and Courier, Bishop Steve Wood has tested positive and is apparently suffering from a serious case of COVID-19. He is in the Intensive Care Unit of East Cooper Medical Center, in Mt. Pleasant, on a ventilator. No visitors allowed. The 56-year-old Wood is rector of St. Andrew's Church, Mt. Pleasant, and also bishop of the Anglican Church in North America's Diocese of the Carolinas. Find the article here .

The St. Andrew's Church website confirms that Wood has the virus. It also says that the assistant rector, the Rev. Anthony Kowbeidu, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Find the church page here . It gives this chilling statement: "If you received communion from Steve or Anthony at any time since March 6, you have definitely been exposed."

Channel 2 News is posting another report of this. Find it here . This says that three "leaders" of St. Andrew's have shown symptoms possibly of COVID-19. It also says the church sent out a letter to parishioners warning them of the situation. The people received the letter on Mar. 19, a week after Wood "felt sick" and self-quarantined. This article says that Wood was admitted to the hospital with a high fever and respiratory problems.

A few comments:
---A call for prayers for Wood and Kowbeidu.
(I am astonished at the deafening silence from Wood's friends as of this moment. As he lies gravely ill in the ICU, there is no mention of his present condition, let alone calls for prayers for his recovery, on the St. Andrew's website, the ACNA website, or the Anglican diocese of South Carolina's site. What gives?)
---This proves to us that early action is crucial in stopping the spread of this virus.
---This virus is highly contagious. Experts say it is two and a half times more contagious than the common cold. If I had had any contact with Wood or Kowbeidu in the past three weeks, I would self-quarantine but also get tested for the virus.


A suggested prayer (from the EDSC wesbite):

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy. Sustain and support the anxious, be with those who care for the sick, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may find comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

_____________________________

Need a "pick me up" story today? How about this bride-to-be who, forced to postpone her wedding, donated her flowers to a nursing home? Find it here .
_____________________________


UPDATE. March 22, 3 p.m.     The Rev. John Burley reported in the 9 a.m. livestreamed service this morning at St. Andrew's church (find it on the St. Andrew's website), that Bishop Steve Wood was still in the Intensive Care Unit and on a ventilator but with no fever. Burley said Wood was "stable" and that there was "no change" in his condition.


I remain amazed, and a bit bewildered, at the lack of public reaction to Wood's obviously very serious health condition. A person in ICU on a ventilator in unchanged condition is in physical danger. I should think at least his friends near and far would be actively calling for prayers for his recovery. So far, near silence. Burley's remarks this morning is the extent of anything I have seen. 

The communicants of St. Andrew's need to be concerned for their own health. Two of their clergy have tested positive for the coronavirus and one is having a serious bout of it. From what we have been told, Wood first began to feel ill on Thursday, March 12 and started a self-quarantine. He learned later that he was positive for the virus. The experts say a person can carry the virus for fourteen days before any symptoms appear.  

A week after symptoms appeared, on the evening of Thursday, March 26, church leaders sent a letter to the congregation about Wood's illness. Apparently, Wood was taken to the hospital the next day and to the ICU where he remains.

The bottom line is that the people of St. Andrew's should be vigilant about their health. We know this germ is highly contagious, two and a half times as much as the common cold. It may be that more people in the church will experience the symptoms of COVID-19. One should follow the guidelines of the experts at the CDC if one believes he or she may have the virus.

From all the evidence accumulating, people are having greatly varying experiences in terms of symptoms of this infection. Some people report mild effects, as a bad cold or a case of the flu. Others are reporting much worse effects. Obviously Bishop Wood's case is somewhere near the "worse" end of the spectrum or otherwise he would not be in ICU on a ventilator. 

The fact is that people are dying of the effects of this disease. Italy has the highest rate of mortality at 9 %. In the U.S. so far it is less than 2 %.

The coronavirus is spreading all around us at a quickening pace. Unfortunately, it has struck in one of the largest Anglican churches of the lowcountry. The people there should take every precaution with their own health as they pray for the speedy recovery of their two clergy battling the virus.  

Friday, March 20, 2020





LIFE IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC



Suddenly, our patterns of daily life have changed. And, this is only the beginning of much more to come. Experts are now talking about as long as eighteen months before the danger subsides. Every single one of us is going to be impacted in ways we cannot know now. So, what to do for the duration of this pandemic? How should we react to this crisis that has befallen us, and the rest of the world?

"Social distancing" is the code term of the day. This means stay at home if possible, or if not possible, keep six feet away from the next person. If that is not possible, protect yourself, at least by washing hands frequently. This is a highly contagious virus that spreads easily from coughs and sneezes and from surfaces. If you are over the age of 60 and/or have immune compromising underlying issues (hypertension, heart trouble, diabetes, cancer, lung diseases) you should take extra precautions.

Sometimes this social distancing is very hard to do. Last week, my one and only grandchild stopped by for a visit on her way from California to South Carolina. I had not seen her in fourteen months. I wanted more than anything to give her a big bear hug as is my custom. We all resisted touching, however, but when she left, I was left a bit depressed.  

Social distancing is against human nature. Human beings are and have always been social animals. It is in our nature to interact in groups. In the Paleolithic Age, all societies lived communally, that is, together in groups as they moved from place to place in search of food. The idea of living separately, even in family units, really began to take hold as the Neolithic Age dawned, around 10,000 B.C.E. As people developed settled agriculture (farming the land and keeping animals), they separated into units on the divided pieces of land. Even then they kept social contacts in villages or other ways and the idea of a greater nation-state binding a large area together gradually emerged. Even in America, where we like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, we have always been bound by a greater sense of community. In short, what the experts are telling us to do now is not in our nature. It is certainly in our greater interest at the moment in order to stop the spread of the virus but social distancing may well have adverse effects as loneliness and depression.

We church people are social by the very nature of church. The church is a group. It conducts itself by group dynamics. Therefore, the church will have to find innovative ways to mesh the urge for group interaction with the necessity of distancing. One good way churches are rising to the occasion is by transmitting electronic services. These days, most people have smart phones and various forms of computers. For some of the elderly, digital communication can be a problem. My teenage granddaughter knows far more about digital forms than I do. Nowadays, children grow up with it in the schools. It is second nature to them. Nevertheless, the church can find innovative ways to use digital media to connect church and people.

In the Episcopal church, numerous parishes are offering online services. Washington National Cathedral offers Morning Prayer, Monday-Saturday at 7:00 a.m. and Evening Prayer at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday worship at 11:15 a.m. These are livestreamed and then posted as video files. Find the information about this here . Likewise, Grace Church Cathedral, in Charleston is offering Morning Prayer, daily, Monday-Friday, as well as 11:00 Sunday service. These are all livestreamed and later available as video files. Find these at Youtube-Grace Church Cathedral. In the EDSC, two other parishes are offering online church, St. Anne's of Conway, and St. Catherine's of Florence. Several other parishes are providing audio files. Find the details of these offerings on the EDSC website here .

In the disassociated diocese, numerous parishes are providing online church services. Interesting to note that all but one of these are legally Episcopal churches. Even though they are temporarily occupied by non-Episcopal clergy, it is important to keep worship going pending the return of the Episcopal bishop. Find the details here . According to the ADSC website, the following are available online:
Church of the Cross, in Bluffton; Christ Church, of Mt. Pleasant; St. Paul's, of Conway; Holy Trinity, in Grahamville; Holy Cross, of Stateburg; Christ/St. Paul's, of Yonges Island; St. Helena's, in Beaufort; St. Philip's, of Charleston; Good Shepherd, in Charleston; Epiphany, in Eutawville; Our Saviour, on Johns Island; and All Saints, in Florence.

Churches, indeed, all of us as individuals, should remain concerned about people who may be most impacted by the social isolation, particularly the elderly, and people who live alone. Almost everyone has a telephone. At the very least we can call and check on people we know to be most vulnerable in this hour of crisis. We can pick up a few items at the grocery, collect a prescription at the pharmacy, or just say "Hello."

Social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and that can promote depression. These could be adverse side effects of the virus. If we remain cognizant of this, we can work to mitigate the effects, at least on the most vulnerable ones among us. We are social animals, and here is a way we can put that nature to work, caring for others.

For those of us staying at home to social distance, we should think of ways to use our time helpfully for others and ourselves. Here is what I am doing. Fortunately, I have a large garden that needs a lot of work. This is great therapy (We are having a glorious springtime and many plants are bursting out in all their beauty; however, it is cloudy and dark today. No photos.) I have even taken to mowing my own lawn rather than hiring it out as I have in the past. Even if you do not have a garden, or a yard, you can still garden on a small scale. A pot, potting soil, and plants, and there you are. Inside I have a stack of books I want to read, TV, and my computer. I try to limit the news on TV. Too much of that is too upsetting. My wife Sandy spends a lot of time talking on the phone with her church friends who live alone as well as catching up on her reading. She also keeps in stock the free pantry in our church parking lot. Her favorite reading of late is Jon Meacham's book on the last words of Christ on the cross, The Hope of Glory. She recommends it, especially now in Lent. Don't forget table games. My favorite is Yahtzee. The games are short and are not complicated. The old standard Monopoly is good but games can last for hours. How about jigsaw puzzles? I am fond of Sudoku and crossword puzzles. I am also bringing back hobbies that I have had in the past, such as working on my family genealogy. If you have youngsters in the house, you will have to come up with a lot of innovative ideas, that is if you can unglue them from their electronic devices.

What I am trying to do is listen to the advice of the experts and practice social distancing. Here in America this is now on a voluntary basis. However, there are places abroad where this is not voluntarily. In some big cities in Europe no one is allowed on the streets without a pass from the authorities and then only for necessities as food and medicines. We do not want to get to that stage and should not have to if everyone cooperates voluntarily now.

For the video of the day showing how people are adapting to social distancing, click here .

Wednesday, March 18, 2020





OUR DARKENING HOUR



All signs indicate the coronavirus is spreading across America. It has had very bad effects in some countries abroad such as China and Italy. It will get worse here in America before it gets better. It is going to impact our lives in ways we cannot see now. Right now the stock market is collapsing, again. What to do?

The experts are telling us the best thing we can do right now is to self isolate, for our own sake and to keep the virus from spreading. So, that should be our first thought. Stay at home if at all possible. For those for whom it is not possible, keep "social distancing" and practice common sense measures as frequent washing of hands.

The medical professionals are also telling us, if you get the virus, do not panic. Treat it as a bad case of the flu. They are saying go to bed and take over the counter medicines to treat the symptoms. Seek more help if you are in the "at risk" categories:  over 60 and/or with underlying issues as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, lung diseases, and cancer.

Believe me, you do not want to go to the Emergency Room these days unless absolutely, positively necessary. Two days ago, I had to go to the ER, to my great discomfort, on a matter completely unrelated to the virus. On doctor's orders, I had to take a family member to the ER in order to get the person admitted to the hospital, the largest hospital in this region of Alabama. First of all, on entering the ER waiting room, one is encountering every germ in the county from people suffering various conditions of medical distress. On entering the door, the triage nurse, covered from head to toe in protective gear, slapped face masks on us. Then she put us in a little room far back in the ER department where we had to wait, and wait. After five hours of waiting, I asked the area nurse if I could go get something from my car and return. "Sure," she said. On returning from my car to the ER waiting room, I saw the personnel scrambling around everywhere. It was bedlam (I do not know if it was an incoming case of the virus, but it was something critical). The clerk told me I could not go beyond the doors into the hallway. "Oh, no," I said, "I have to go to my family member who is in a room alone back there." "That hall is closed, no one goes in there!" she declared emphatically. In disbelief, my mouth fell open, my eyes bulged, and my face turned red, but there was no way that woman was letting me pass her to get into the ER hallway where a true emergency was occurring. Turning and looking at that big room full of coughing and sneezing people, I fled in anger and sorrow. I seethed all the way home. I can tell you, it is very hard to leave a loved one alone in the ER. 

As it turned out, I can see the ER personnel were right. They were protecting me from the virus or something else dangerous. My family member was well cared for and was soon admitted to the hospital. It all ended well but left me in shambles. So, take my word for it, you do not want to go to an ER right now unless it is a matter of life and death. 

The ER is ground zero in the fight against the coronavirus. The medical professionals there put their lives on the line every day, and they do it for us, all of us. They deserve nothing but our admiration, respect, and support. I thank God for them.

Fortunately, we church people are grounded in our faith and we have our leadership to guide us in this trying time. Those in lower South Carolina can look to their diocesan authorities for wisdom and guidance in this darkening hour. The Anglican diocese has closed all churches for in-person services. Several parishes will livestream services on Sundays. Find the list here . Bishop Lawrence has posted a pastoral letter that everyone should read. Find it here .

The Episcopal diocese is temporarily without a seated bishop, but it still has leadership, namely in the archdeacon, the Ven. Calhoun Walpole, the chair of the standing committee, the Rev. Caleb Lee, and the visiting bishop, the Rt. Rev. Henry Parsley. Just today, the archdeacon posted a thoughtful reflection, "Diocesan Meditation: The Light in Darkness." Find it here . All three leaders will be posting meditations regularly on the diocesan website. All churches of the diocese are closed to in-person services, but some parishes will livestream Sunday liturgies. Consult the diocesan website here for the particulars of the online offerings. In fact, Morning Prayer, at Grace Cathedral today, is available on Youtube. Find it here .

As for me and my family, we are staying at home except for necessary outings, and then only as briefly as possible. As everyone else, we will be watching Sunday services on our computers. Sadly, we cannot visit our family member in the hospital because the hospital has closed itself to all visitors, understandably. Yet, we can still communicate with each other, on our phones and other electronic equipment. 

The night is darkening. It is going to get darker and darker probably for the next few weeks or months. Remember that as the light fades you are not alone. We are all in this together and we will get through this together. Keep the faith. Peace. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020





SC DIOCESES AND CLOSURES



On yesterday, the Episcopal and Anglican dioceses in lower South Carolina announced suspension of public worship services. The Episcopal authorities said there would be no Episcopal church services until the end of March. Find their announcement here . The Anglican bishop said there would be no Anglican church services "at least" for the next two Sundays. Find their announcement here .

Both dioceses said there would be electronic transmissions of services. As of this moment, the Episcopal diocese lists three livestreamed churches. Find the information here . The three are Grace Church Cathedral, in Charleston, via Youtube and Facebook; St. Anne's, in Conway, on Facebook; and St. Catherine's, of Florence, on Facebook. Several other parishes offer audio files. Consult the list on the webpage noted above. Grace said it would conduct services à la National Cathedral, that is with the clergy and a small choir but no congregation.

On last check, the Anglican diocese had not listed its online services. Keep checking back on their website for that information which is supposedly upcoming.

Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, as of yesterday 33 in SC and 29 in AL. Around the country there is a rolling wave of closures and cutbacks. This is the sensible, albeit painful, thing to do at this point. If we can "put a lid" on the spread of the bug right now, we can gain control of the situation. If we let it spread and multiply for the next few weeks, it will be completely out of control and much, much harder to rein in (as in Italy). We will pay a much higher price if we have to go to total lock down as some countries have been forced to do. It is better to "bite the bullet" now than to face the bullet in a few weeks.

This is a time of high anxiety, perfectly understandable. We are frightened of the unknown as we are frightened of losing control over our own lives. Fear is a natural reaction to a crisis such as this. However, we must not let the stresses of the moment overcome our good judgment. Above all, we must keep the faith. The Universe is not chaos. There is a divine order although sometimes it may be hard to see. There is a great transcendent Presence that is always with us. Peace. 

Monday, March 16, 2020





CDC:  NO GATHERINGS OF 50+ PEOPLE
FOR EIGHT WEEKS



On yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control recommended new guidelines for reacting to the spread of COVID-19.

The guideline includes this:

Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.
...
This recommendation does not apply to the day-to-day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses.

Find the "Interim Guidance for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) here .

Elsewhere in the "Guidance" the CDC says there should be no gathering of more than 10 people who classify as "at risk." At risk are the elderly and persons with existing immune compromising conditions as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lung diseases, and the like.

While yesterday's direction is not an official order, it is to be taken seriously. Dr. Fauci said on the talk shows yesterday that we may soon get to the point of "lock down" such as is now occurring in some countries abroad. Right now, the authorities are asking for voluntary cooperation to limit public gatherings in order to contain the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus is spreading in the U.S. rapidly, lately doubling about every two or three days. 

This leaves the churches facing some hard decisions. If we follow the CDC guidelines, we have to close the churches.

This will require the church officers to "think outside the box" to find ways to "do" church and move to non-traditional ways of interfacing between clergy and laity. For that, fortunately we live in the digital age. We have mass electronic means of communications. If we ever needed this, it is now. Let's use the resources we have.

Yesterday, the Washington National Cathedral and the presiding bishop gave us models on how to present church through electronic media. Through Youtube, the Cathedral livestreamed its 11:15 a.m. service. There was no congregation. There, in that cavernous building that we all know and love, were the clergy around the altar, the organist and a small choir. The bulletin was posted so that people at home could follow the whole service. It was a great success. Separately, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry videotaped and posted a fifteen minute sermon, also successfully.

As probably many of you, I watched the 11:00 service of Grace Church Cathedral in Charleston. It too was a big success. I especially appreciated the words of Dean Wright in his homily.

If we follow the CDC guidelines, we should close all churches to the public.

We should not close religion to the public. Church officials should find ways to provide church services to the people and to keep up communications. The National Cathedral and the presiding bishop have shown the way, thankfully. I should think that Grace Church Cathedral will continue its livestreaming services without a congregation, with the bulletin posted.

The diocese of South Carolina is in a unique position in this national crisis since it does not have a seated bishop. Bishop Parsley is generously providing essential services but he is not the provisional bishop of the diocese. This puts extra burden on the present authorities, particularly the archdeacon and the chair of the standing committee who so far have done good jobs. They might want to think of ways to increase communication between clergy and people in this hour of emergency, perhaps presenting periodic talks online. Above all, people need reassurance that we will get through this crisis and the church can be a great part of this. The people need to hear from their leaders in person, not just by letter.

All signs indicate that this crisis will get worse for weeks, maybe months, to come. We are in for a hard time. We people of faith know that there is a higher power that is always with us and will stay with us through thick and thin. Now is the time for the church to bring this truth home to the people using the media of the day. 


Sunday, March 15, 2020







THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE CRAZY



Crises always seem to bring out the extremes in society and this COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.

Right now we can see numerous examples of how this health crisis is bringing out the good, the bad, and the crazy in people. And the scare in America is really only just beginning. All of this will be magnified in the next few weeks.


THE GOOD.

First of all, let us trust our best, most reliable sources for leadership. Unfortunately, President Trump has shown himself to be incapable of leading the country in this moment of crisis. In reality, he has done more harm than good. However, he has some outstanding experts around him who have stepped up to lead the nation. First and foremost is Dr. Anthony Fauci. He should be our go-to guy on what to do now and in the near future. He is filling the vacuum left by the president. We should all thank God for him and the others around him, such as Dr. Deborah Birx. We can have confidence that they will see us through this dark hour. Dr. Fauci was just on TV this morning, on NBC's "Meet the Press.". Find him here . I, for one, listen to every word he says. He is the expert.

Two of the hardest hit countries in Europe are Italy and Spain. They are in lock down for the duration of the crisis. Yet, even as people huddle in fear in their homes, they rise to cheer for the health care professionals among them who risk their very lives to tend the sick and dying. Look at this video from Italy. In Spain, too, people took to their windows and balconies to applaud the health workers. Find that video here . In Italy, Spain, and elsewhere people know we are all in this together. What affects one of us affects all of us.


THE BAD.

In Alabama, there is a stampede on gun shops to stock up on ammunition and guns. Find the report of this here . Now, this one baffles me. The virus does not care if a person has a gun or not. No bullet is going to stop the virus. The only explanation that makes any sense to me is fear of social breakdown. Perhaps some people believe the police/military will be incapacitated by the virus and there will be a collapse of civil order, therefore people will have to defend themselves against the lawless. If you come up with a better explanation for the run on gun shops, please let me know. Stripping the shelves at Walmart of toilet paper is crazy too, but it actually makes more sense to me than stocking up on ammunition (even though, from what I gather, the coronavirus is upper respiratory, not lower GI track).


THE CRAZY.

Believe it or not, some people are drinking bleach in the crazy idea that they can disinfect themselves against the virus. I know, I was incredulous at this too. Find an NBC report on this madness here . This fits into the "What were they thinking?" category. It is not just toilet paper that has disappeared from the shelves, it is also all disinfectant products such as household bleach. In fact, there was a fist fight at a local Walmart here over the last jug of Clorox. A tiny amount of household bleach in a lot of water can be used as a disinfectant, but not to drink! It is toxic!


This pandemic will not last forever. It will end. The best way to get through this crisis is by bringing out the best in ourselves. As the people in Europe know, we are all in this together. Let's follow the leadership of the experts of the Center for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health as the situation worsens. South Carolina is reporting 19 cases today and Alabama, 12. We can expect that the worst is yet to come in these states, indeed, in the whole U.S.