Closure Updates

Home Closure Updates

Dear People of St. Paul’s,

I want to thank all of you for your outpouring of support and prayers during this unprecedented time in the history of this parish, our country, and the world. In the over 200 year history of St. Paul’s the only other event to shut our doors was the Civil War. You are all on my mind and remain on my heart in these challenging days. We are working hard to adapt to this new circumstance; trying to find ways to connect and ways to center our lives when everything feels so out of our control.

I am happy to report that Alyse Viggiano continues to feel well and has no symptoms as her time of self-quarantine comes to a close at the end of the day today, and also happy to report that Doug Kirby is healthy and symptom-free and has concluded his time of self-quarantine.

We learned from Bishop Goff this week that all public worship services in the Diocese of Virginia are suspended indefinitely. This suspension will extend beyond Holy Week and Easter. To that end, this week and for the weeks to come, our Friday newsletter will focus on providing resources to the parish designed to enrich our time apart. Below this letter you will find links to content created by the clergy and staff of St. Paul’s.

We are all trying to come to terms with life during this time of isolation and anxiety. My hope is that this might be a time of innovation and imagination, a time of introspection and growth, and, perhaps, it might be a time that we actually be more connected to one another in spite of being physically distant. Please stay in touch. We do want to hear from you. Our emails can be found below or you can click “Contact Us” on our website.

We set out on these uncharted waters together; from our separate corners of the world may we continue to shine as a light in the world to the glory of God. It is times like these that highlight the great gift of our faith, the great strength of our community, and the great relevance of our mission in the world. There are times of unexpected challenge and these are also times of unexpected grace.

You can click here to watch our weekly Morning Prayer service for Sunday, March 22.

Blessings to you all,
Oran, oran@stpaulsalexandria.com

Other Clergy Emails:
The Rev. Elizabeth Rees, elizabeth@stpaulsalexandria.com
The Rev. Alyse Viggiano, alyse@stpaulsalexandria.com

As we hope everyone has heard, the Bishop of Virginia, Susan Goff, in coordination with other bishops and health officials, made the determination to cancel all public worship services in the Diocese of Virginia for the next two weeks. This decision was made in order to protect the most vulnerable among us, by helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus and ensure that our healthcare system is not overwhelmed.

This week a small group of office staff gathered to record a morning prayer service with a homily. We invite you to watch the video and follow along with the bulletin which is linked here. There will also be a stack of bulletins in front of the church if you are in the neighborhood and would like to pick one up.

This Sunday, March 15th, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preach at a service live-streamed from the National Cathedral starting at 11:00 am. You can watch the service from the Washington National Cathedral here. The Diocese of Virginia also has further options for virtual worship here.

The Church has always been One Body, even though we Christians are scattered around the world. That assurance becomes even more important for us at times like this. We realize that a virtual worship service is not the same as gathering in person, and Morning Prayer is not the same as Eucharist, but we trust that our prayers join us together as One Body even now, and that our God is present with us and holding all of us in arms of love in these challenging times.

During this time of uncertainty and worry, please know that the St. Paul’s clergy remains available for your pastoral needs. I am pleased to report that both Alyse Viggiano and Doug Kirby remain in good health with no symptoms. If you have questions or concerns email remains the best and fastest way to contact us. Please do not hesitate to do so. We will continue to reach out by email and update our website with information as we have it.

Faithfully,
The Rev. Oran E. Warder, oran@stpaulsalexandria.com
The Rev. Eizabeth Rees, elizabeth@stpaulsalexandria.com
The Rev. Alyse Viggiano, alyse@stpaulsalexandria.com

March 11, 2020

This afternoon, the Diocese of Virginia asked all of its congregations to cease public worship services for the next two weeks. This is a sad and difficult decision, but I believe the correct one.

Therefore, St. Paul’s will be suspending our public worship services for at least the next two weeks.

In recent days, we have learned from medical and disease-related experts about the importance of “flattening the curve” when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus. What this means is taking action to slow down the spread of the disease. Over time, this will create less strain on our health care system and most importantly, result in fewer people infected and fewer deaths. The most certain way to slow the disease’s spread is by refraining from bringing together large groups of people at events such as conferences, concerts, sporting events, and even worship services. As Christians, we are called to help the most vulnerable, and the coronavirus puts those most vulnerable at-risk.

The St. Paul’s staff and clergy is already at work identifying ways we can still come together online and share a common worship experience. As we work out those details, we will share them with you.

At this time, we do not anticipate cancelling or altering other church meetings or activities. The guidance we have received is that worship services are a unique challenge because of the large group of people. The church office remains open and our pastoral ministry continues, so please don’t hesitate to call on us.

In the coming days, we will remain in regular contact with you about all of the latest developments within the St. Paul’s community. We are glad to report that we were in touch with Alyse Viggiano and Doug Kirby earlier today and both continue to be in good health.

While this seems like a time of grave uncertainty, we are reminded that Christians throughout the ages have lived in such times. Our earliest ancestors worshipped in homes due to fears of persecution. Even here at St. Paul’s, a war came through our doorstep and shut down our sanctuary for three years. In spite of these struggles, it is our faith in Jesus Christ that has sustained us as Christians and it will do so again.

One of my favorite collects in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP p.133) is a prayer that asks for God’s protection so that we “who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in God’s eternal changelessness.” We are indeed wearied by the changes and chances, the anxieties and fears, and the uncertainty and insecurity of the present times. These feelings are real. Our concern is justified. There are no quick and easy platitudes, religious or otherwise, that will make them disappear. What we do have however is the equally real promise of God in Christ Jesus who is present with us in these challenging times and the promises that we have made as members of the Body of Christ that we will be present for each other. It is this reality that allows us to live in hope, it is this reality that allows us to move forward in faith, it is this reality that allows us to rest in our all loving, eternal, changeless God.

March 10, 2020

In keeping with our practice of open communication and thoughtful prevention, I have more coronavirus news to share with you.

Last night, we learned that Christ Church Georgetown’s organist, Tom Smith, was newly diagnosed with the coronavirus. Immediately upon learning the news, our Assistant Rector Alyse Viggiano let me know that she had a brief conversation with Tom outside of Christ Church last Friday morning. Though they had no physical contact, Alyse will stay home and begin to self-quarantine.

Alyse was actively involved with parish activities last weekend. On Saturday, she presided over our Faith at Five service. On Sunday, she served at our 7:45, 9 and 11 am services. Alyse distributed communion at each service, but was following our best practices of using hand sanitizer before and after the service, and again before serving communion. As a reminder, beginning last weekend, we have only been distributing wafers or bread, and not wine, during communion. In addition, Alyse was a participant in our Confirmation/Adult Inquirers class at noon on Sunday, and set-up and participated in our Pious Pint ministry in the Johnston Room on Sunday evening.

Alyse has not been present at or been on the same floor as the St. Paul’s Playschool or the St. Paul’s Nursery and Day School since her interaction with Tom.

Alyse, like our seminarian Doug, displays no signs of ill health. Public and medical authorities are not recommending any specific action for those of us who have interacted with symptom-free individuals who report contact with virus patients.

We are extremely grateful for the pro-active responses and open communication shared by Alyse and Doug, and we will keep this parish informed should there be any changes in their health or well-being.

Let us resolve to be prudent, thoughtful and caring in regards to our own health and that of Alyse and Doug, and all those potentially and actually affected. Good hygiene and limited physical interaction are wise first steps, as are prayer and the expression of fellowship that sustain our relationships with God and one another.

As I reported yesterday, St. Paul’s will observe best practices for public and parish health as recommended by government authorities and the Diocese, even as we encourage all of you to be mindful of your own health, limiting your interactions in the event you aren’t feeling well.

Up-to-date information about the Coronavirus Disease can be found on the CDC website. I encourage anyone showing symptoms or who has concerns about their health to contact their health care provider. I will continue to update you on any developments directly affecting St. Paul’s.

Working together, St. Paul’s staff, vestry, and parishioners will remain intentional about protecting those we serve, including the broader community, even as we continue to shine as a light in the world to the glory of God.

March 9, 2020
Developments surrounding the coronavirus are happening quickly, and as your Rector, I want to ensure that we are sharing all relevant information with you as quickly as possible even while wanting to avoid causing any undue anxiety or fear.

This afternoon we learned that our seminarian, Doug Kirby, may have been exposed to the coronavirus in the course of attending a worship service at his home parish, Christ Church Georgetown, on Sunday March 1st. I share this information with you because Doug has been an active participant in our parish life since then. He led our Men’s Bible Study on Wednesday, March 3rd. He also served at the 7:45am and 9am services at St. Paul’s yesterday, and was a presenter at our Confirmation/Adult Inquirers class at 12 noon. Doug did not distribute communion at either service.

Today, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser requested that everyone who attended Christ Church services on March 1st quarantine themselves until 14 days after their contact with the Christ Church Rector. Doug is complying with that request, and has quarantined himself. I am pleased to say that Doug is now 8 days out from his interaction and remains healthy and without any symptoms.

It was not reported until late yesterday afternoon that the Christ Church Rector, the Reverend Tim Cole, had been diagnosed with the coronavirus and we did not learn of the quarantine request until this afternoon. Doug reports that his interaction with the Rector was limited – he received communion and had a passing word with the Rector, but they did not shake hands or have any physical contact. We are grateful to Doug for alerting us as soon as he learned the news, and we will follow-up with the parish after his quarantine is over.

We would urge our own members, particularly those who may be most vulnerable, to be mindful of any symptoms that might occur in the coming day and weeks.

At our worship services yesterday, I noted that we have received many calls and questions about the church’s response to the coronavirus and I have emphasized three things about our response:

First, we have taken steps to ensure that our clergy and staff are following best practices as laid out by the Diocese of Virginia and public health authorities. At the direction of the bishop, we are only offering bread at the Eucharist as a way of limiting communal contact. This action is consistent with Anglican beliefs that teach us if we are receiving the sacrament in one kind, we are receiving it in totality.

Second, we are relying on members of our community to exercise common sense. If you’re not feeling well, please stay home. All of our members should also be practicing good hygiene – including lots of hand washing and avoiding unnecessary contact. This includes the passing of the peace during our worship services, where we are encouraging people to bump elbows or merely give a small bow.

Third, we will continue to stay in contact with you and let you know of any developments that arise as quickly as possible. We do not want people to overreact to news, but we trust people to use their own good judgement and take the precautions they believe are necessary.