NOTE: All services will be streamed online via our Facebook Page as possible.

Dear Friends and Faithful of Archangel Gabriel,

The blessing of the Lord!

The public response to the COVID-19 virus and its unknown rate of infection around the world, as well as in our nation, is becoming more focused as monitoring cases of the respiratory disease it causes gains more of an observable history. The Orthodox Church in America had issued a preliminary statement on the outbreak of the virus (February 29). Our own Diocese of the South issued a statement from His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander, to the clergy on this on this past Tuesday (March 10).

There is growing concern that we should take measures to slow the rate of infection so that our hospitals and health specialists are not overwhelmed by a series of spikes in the infection rate. While not a desirable measure to advise, limiting contact with others (social distancing or self imposed quarantine) may be the best way to limit the spread of the virus.

While this is good advice for those who have any cold or flu symptoms, the present situation may prove to be one where voluntary social distancing could help slow the infection rate. Slowing the rate of infection will help our hospitals remain ahead of the rush for treatment that may be needed. The growing level of concern among disease control specialists has initiated another review of the circumstances and resulted in another statement from the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America. His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander, has amplified this somewhat with his own statement is linked here.

Therefore, at Archangel Gabriel, in obedience to the request of our Archbishop, only the Sunday Divine Liturgy, the Vesperal Liturgy of the Feast of Annunciation, and the Presanctified Liturgies, will remain on our church calendar through March 29.

All other social or official gatherings of the parish are canceled. This includes Church School, Coffee Hour, and Adult Education Classes, as well as any other services that were on the calendar.

The liturgies that will be offered will be served with a minimum number of participants: ideally, the priest, reader, altar server, and two choir members. Those who are at greatest risk from infection are absolutely encouraged to practice self-isolation ("social distancing"), not just from parish life, but in day to day activities. Those who are actively showing symptoms of any respiratory illness should self-quarantine.

For those who do attend any service, we ask the following: please wash your hands upon entering the building. Do not kiss any item or the hand of the priest. Icons may be reverenced with the sign of the cross and a bow instead of a kiss. Candles may be lit. The Eucharist will be administered as always: in the usual manner, for the healing of soul and body. There will not be Zapifka wine (though there will be blessed bread) following Communion. After the dismissal of the Liturgy, Fr. Chrysostom will not provide the cross for veneration, but rather give a blessing with his hand (but not extend his hand for reverence). After each service all liturgical objects and surfaces will be thoroughly disinfected.

As at any other time, if you desire a sick visit or for communion to be brought to you because of illness or infirmity, please contact Fr. Chrysostom. Provided he is healthy, he will arrange a visit.

Often times there is a piety that requires one to be at the Church, even while overcome with sickness. Under the circumstances of a pandemic, this is an unwise piety. Be vigilant with your prayers at home with a blessing to be absent until symptoms are past, and until this outbreak resolves. Since testing is lagging behind the spread of the virus, it is unwise to assume that typical viral symptoms are other than COVOD-19 for your own sake and out of love for your brothers and sisters in Christ, but also for your neighbors.

Also, keep perspective; prepare, but do not panic. Any individual is not at great risk even if he or she gets the virus. We are simply doing our best to slow the rate of spread of the virus so we don't overwhelm our hospitals. Regardless, the Lord remains our refuge and strength. To trust in the Lord amid trouble is to experience and bear witness to the power of Christ. Pray for the sick and the anxious, for doctors and nurses, and for caregivers. As Orthodox Christians, we believe prayer has power, so we seek first and foremost help from the Lord.

Even as the virus outbreak prevents us from gathering as a parish to worship as we are accustomed, we will still need to support one another in our caregiving. This can happen through prayer, through verbal encouragement, and through coming alongside others to provide help in a crisis. Check in on your fellow parishioners by phone, email, text, and social media; also, check in on your neighbors. Please let Fr. Chrysostom know of any need.

We are working on the possibility of "live streaming" the services through FaceBook and if that becomes possible another email will be sent out with instructions on how to do that and details will be posted on this page.

Please see these documents from the OCA Diocese of the South:

Also, stay informed using reliable sources such the following:

Let me know if I can serve you in any way. And feel free to ask any questions. I am sure more information will be forthcoming.

In Christ, and with the fast!

Fr. Chrysostom