Through the month of July the Mission Committee will be sharing daily prayer requests focusing on mission work in an through the Diocese of Albany.  These prayer prompts will be shared on social media and here. Please join us in praying for God’s love and light to be shared all over the world beginning right here in our Diocese.

To learn more about the Mission Committee click here.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week, countless people throughout the Country watched and mourned with the family and friends of George Floyd as his body was laid to rest two weeks after his brutal and senseless murder by an unjust policeman in Minneapolis.  What happened to George Floyd NEVER should have happened, but tragically it did.  It serves as a stark reminder to all of us of the fallen and broken world in which we live – a world in great need of healing and redemption.

From the very earliest of days, beginning with Cain and Abel, human beings have lashed out in anger, fear, jealousy, greed, and hatred toward one another, resulting in untold devastation and suffering (physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, financially, and many other ways). It seems as though humans never run out of excuses to try to justify their hatred or ill will and demeaning attitudes towards one another, whether it be race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social status, or some other excuse.  Hatred only leads to more hatred, more violence, more injustice, more suffering, and more loss.

Our African American brothers and sisters have experienced the devasting consequences of these sinful attitudes and behaviors for centuries. They have been targets of oppression and discrimination in ways big and small simply because of the color of their skin, and these injustices continue today. We have come a long way from where we once were but, as we have been reminded in recent weeks, we still have a long way to go. The unrest we’ve seen in communities here and across the country is reflective of the anger, frustration, and deep hurt and pain that so many are still experiencing.

If our society is to be freed of the infliction of racism, it will be one person at a time, one relationship at a time, and one act of intentional, unconditional, self-sacrificial love at a time.  Racism is a condition of the heart and mind and soul.  There is only one antidote – LOVE.  I am not talking about a superficial love that is based on our emotions or feelings (that is here one day and gone the next), but rather the love that enables us to “turn the other cheek,” to “love our enemies,” and to pray for “those who persecute [us].” It is the love that enables us to look beyond ourselves to the needs of others, giving of ourselves to help meet those needs.  That is the love that Jesus calls us to, the love that He perfectly demonstrated on the Cross when He offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and died in order that we might live.

The love that will ultimately defeat racism and heal its victims of the hurts and fears they have experienced is a supernatural, life transforming love that comes from God.  The Lord calls each of us to be a channel of His love and mercy and healing grace in the fight against racism and other ills of society.  If we are to carry out that call, we must first be healed and transformed ourselves.  We can’t give that which we don’t have.

It is vital that we ask God to help us identify and repent of our own areas of fallenness – the prejudices we have toward others, and the injustices we have committed regardless of how large or small.  If we have failed to show dignity and respect to a fellow human being; if we have belittled someone, or done something to suggest they are somehow “less than” others; or if we have placed ourselves above others, we need to confess it, repent of it, and ask God’s forgiveness.

We must also ask the Lord to heal us of the wounds and fears in our lives that have led us to be prejudicial towards others.  In healing us of those concerns, the Lord can transform our hearts and minds, enabling us to love those we have failed to love, regardless of skin color or any other barriers to relationship.

Governments can pass legislation outlawing particular acts and behaviors and reform unjust systems or practices, but that only goes so far.  As stated earlier, racism is a condition of the heart and mind and soul.  Governments can’t legislate love.  That is a choice that only you and I can make, by God’s grace.  We either choose to love or choose not to.  Love requires action.  It requires relationship.

We must be willing to step out of our comfort zones and engage in conversation in order to get to know one another and start building relationships and trust.  Often that trust will not happen until we demonstrate that we can be counted upon, that we are in it for the long hall, and that we are willing to share in one another’s burdens and speak out against injustices.

God has made it possible for us to love others, because He first loved us.  He set the example.  Fortunately, God didn’t wait for us to love Him nor did He wait for us to get our act together before He loved us.  In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we are told: “But God demonstrates His love for us in this, While we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  The Lord calls us to reach out in love, whether we are loved in return or not.   True love takes work; it takes patience; it takes courage; it takes sacrifice.  True love is needed if racism is to be defeated.  It is going to take God working in and through us as a channel of His love and mercy and healing grace.  Are we up for the challenge?  If not, the current racial unrest and injustice will only get worse.  The Lord is calling us to go forth in His Name.

In thinking about ways in which we might go forth in the Name of Christ to make a positive difference in breaking down racial divides and ministering to the needy, I want to briefly mention two ministries the Lord is blessing in the Albany/Troy area. These, along with many other similar ministries in parishes throughout the Diocese, are worthy of our prayers and support through the gifts of our time, talent, and finances.  Saying we love someone is one thing, showing that we love them is something else.

The “Fish and Loaves Ministry” at St. Francis Mission on Clinton Ave. in Albany is one such ministry.  I am so appreciative to Fr. Jacob Evans, Dick Malchow, and all the faithful volunteers who are helping with this ministry.  It has been going on for several decades now.  I pray by God’s grace and the hard work and generosity of many of you that it will continue as long as there are hungry people in need of a good meal, a friendly smile, and a safe Christ-filled place to come enjoy one another’s company and experience God’s love.  Lives are being touched and transformed.  In speaking of some of the friendships he has made in the black community through the “Fish and Loaves Ministry,” Fr. Jacob said, “They don’t see me as a white guy, and I don’t see them as black people.  They are simply wonderful folks going through a difficult time.”

Kingdom Ministries headed by Lay Pastor Billy Carter (in North Central Troy) is another very worthy ministry the Diocese of Albany (through Oaks of Righteousness) has been blessed to be able to support and partner in.  I am so thankful and appreciative of Billy and his faithful team who give of themselves sacrificially day in and day out ministering to some of the neediest folks in one of the most difficult and dangerous neighborhoods in the area. God is using Kingdom Ministries to be a channel of His love and mercy and healing grace.

I offer these two ministries (recognizing there are many others) as examples of what God can and will do when we unite to minister to those in need.  If we are to help bring healing into the racial divide and its associated ills in our communities, we must all work together, recognizing that EVERY human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and is loved by God.  May God give each of us the grace to see His image and likeness in one another, and in so doing, love one another as He has loved us.

In closing, I pray the Lord will put on each of our hearts the prayer attributed to St. Francis:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to
understand; to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning
that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen.

Faithfully Your Brother in Christ,

+Bill

Bishop of Albany

 

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Albany has issued a call for prayer for Bishop Bill as he prepares to face the Title IV Hearing Panel of the Episcopal Church this Friday, June 12th, beginning at 9am. There are special services taking place around the Diocese to offer prayers on behalf of Bishop Bill. So far we’ve seen the following planned services:
  • Christ Church in Schenectady will have Evening Prayer with special intersession for Bishop Love this Thursday at 6:00pm and Morning Prayer with special intersession for Bishop Love this Friday on at 8:00am.
  • St. George’s in Clifton Park will have the nave open for prayer at 6:00pm Thursday evening followed by a Eucharist at 7:00pm. The nave will be open for prayer after the service until 9:00 pm. All are welcome.
  • St. Matthew’s in Unadilla will Morning Prayer with Great Litany (with special prayers for Bishop Love) at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning.
  • St. Paul’s in Greenwich will have a special evening prayer for Bishop Bill on Thursday evening at 6:30pm.
  • Trinity Churches in Whitehall and Granville will host two prayer hours. Granville will be from 10-11:00am and Whitehall from 1:00 – 2:00pm on Thursday.
If other churches are holding services, please let Rev. Meaghan Keegan, Communications Officer, know by emailing mkeegan@albanydiocese.org and they will be posted on our webpage.
The public will be able to view the hearing through Facebook Live, using this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/265211354592608/
 We have been told that you do not need to have a Facebook account to view this link.
Diocesan Guidelines for Reopening Church Buildings for Public Worship (PDF)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
    Acknowledging the importance of people being able to once again worship together in their faith communities, both the federal and state governments have (with certain restrictions) lifted the ban on public worship services. As a result, after consulting with the clergy and many of the lay leaders of the Diocese, as well as a great deal of thought, prayer and research, I have authorized the reopening of church buildings throughout the Diocese of Albany provided certain diocesan guidelines are followed during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
    Before outlining the diocesan guidelines, I would like to take just a moment to talk about potential pastoral concerns associated with reopening our Church buildings. First, given the current NY State restriction limiting group gatherings inside church buildings to 10 persons or less (regardless of the size of the building), it is important for parishes to be pastorally sensitive as they devise a plan for public services constricted by the 10 person limit. With the possible exception of our smallest parishes, not everyone will be able to worship together at one time, so multiple services may be needed on Sunday, or spread throughout the week. The challenge will be coming up with an equitable system that allows those who want to attend Church to do so.
    Parishes may want to investigate the website (setmore.com) to assist them with scheduling people for their church services. Hopefully the 10 person limit for indoor services will be lifted soon. Until then, however, especially during the warmer months, parishes may want to consider doing an outdoor service, which requires social distancing, but is not constrained by the 10 person rule, thus allowing for more people.
    A second pastoral concern (apart from the 10 person limit) has to do with the fact that not everyone is in the same place, or has the same understanding of how best to move forward with public worship services during the Coronavirus Pandemic. I know many of us are anxious to get back to church as quickly as possible, while others of us are not yet ready to physically join in public worship. Please know that whichever group you find yourself in is fine.
    No one should feel pressured to return to Church before they are ready, nor should those who want to return right away be seen as uncaring or unconcerned about spreading the Coronavirus. There are safe ways for us to come back to church if we work together. We each have different physical, mental and spiritual needs, all of which are important and need to be met as best we can, given the environment we find ourselves in and the various governmental restrictions we are faced with. May God give each of us the patience and grace we need to show Christian love and charity to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of one’s views concerning when and how to reopen our churches. We cannot afford to allow the coronavirus to divide us.
    Similarly, not all parishes are in the same place regarding when and how they (as a parish) should reopen. The fact that a parish may reopen its doors for public worship, does not mean that it must reopen at this time. There may be parishes in the Diocese whose clergy and lay leaders decide not to reopen their buildings right away given the ongoing potential threat from the Coronavirus and the governmental regulations and diocesan guidelines. They may choose to wait until things calm down a bit more and some of the current restrictions are lifted. The clergy, wardens and vestry in each parish will need to work together in deciding whether this is the time to reopen, or whether to wait. Please inform the Bishop’s office of whatever decision is made.
 For those parishes that are ready to begin preparing to reopen, a set of diocesan guidelines has been established to help ensure that we provide as safe an environment as reasonably possible for our parishioners and visitors to come together to worship and serve God. While the basic guidelines set forth by the Diocese must be followed by all parishes, individual parishes may choose to add additional parish guidelines to meet their unique circumstances.   With that said, no matter how hard we try, there is no way to guarantee 100% that someone might not be exposed to the coronavirus while at church. It is important that we trust God and do our best to provide both a safe environment as well as a meaningful ministry and worship experience for those entrusted to our care.
    One of our greatest defenses against the coronavirus is to understand how it spreads. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus’ primary mode of transmission is believed to be through the aerosolization of respiratory droplets spread from an infected person to others in close contact around them, by sneezing, coughing, singing, or talking at close range. It is for that reason that the government recommends and in certain situations mandates that masks be worn when in public. The purpose of the mask is not so much to filter the air we are breathing, but rather to keep infected people from spewing droplets into the air around them.
    While there are a few exceptions such as when someone sneezes or coughs, in most cases aerosolized droplets will not travel more than a few feet before dropping to the ground. Unfortunately in a heavily congested area, that is more than enough space for an infected person to contaminate those around them. That is why social distancing is so important during this pandemic.  The CDC recommends keeping a distance of at least six feet from others outside one’s home and immediate family.
    According to the CDC website, while aerosolized droplets are the primary source of transmission, people can become infected through other means such as “touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.   As a precaution, the CDC recommends regularly cleaning and sanitizing common areas frequented by others as well as practicing good hygiene by thoroughly washing one’s hands or using hand sanitizers. Scientific studies have shown that in an ideal situation, COVID-19 can survive on metal or other hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, and for up to 24 hours on cardboard or other porous surfaces.
    The diocesan guidelines for the reopening of churches (outlined below), are based primarily on recommendations from the CDC.as well as government mandated regulations. They outline the basics of what is needed during this pandemic to help keep our parishioners and visitors safe while worshipping and serving God in our parishes. Each parish has the responsibility of implementing them in the way that best meets the needs and circumstances of the parish. This is not the sole responsibility of the clergy, but rather the whole parish working together.
     It is my hope and prayer that in the not too distant future, the potential threat from the coronavirus will be significantly reduced and we can then ease up, if not totally eliminate many of the following guidelines. For the time being, however, it is important that we follow them, not so much out of a sense of obligation, but rather as an act of love for one another. As Jesus so perfectly demonstrated on the cross, one’s love for others, often requires sacrifices on our part.
    The personal sacrifices or inconveniences we endure during the Coronavirus Pandemic, may very well be the thing that not only protects ourselves, but even more importantly our loved ones from contracting COVID-19. As stated by the CDC, “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.” The following diocesan guidelines will help us in that quest. Everyone’s cooperation in fighting the coronavirus as we come back together in our home parishes is greatly appreciated and needed. By the grace and mercy of God, and everyone’s hard work, we will get through this.
Guidelines to be Followed by All Churches in the Diocese of Albany During the Coronavirus Pandemic
1)     Attitude is important. COVID-19 needs to be taken seriously, but we don’t need to live in fear. To the degree possible, we need to be proactive, rather than reactive to the coronavirus. Plan ahead.
2)     At all times when gathering for worship, or carrying out ministry within the Church during the pandemic, keep in mind how the coronavirus spreads and take appropriate precautions to guard against becoming infected or possibly infecting others.
3)     Clear, respectful signs informing people of the expectation and requirement of wearing masks, social distancing, and the use of hand sanitizer (all outlined below), as well as other necessary instructions, need to be posted near all entrance doors of the Church and other prominent locations.
4)     If people (to include the clergy) are not feeling well, running a fever, coughing, etc., or have been in contact with someone know to have the coronavirus (even if not showing symptoms), they should not attend Church, until they are well, or have completed self-quarantine. This is for their sake and everyone else’s.
5)      The following sign or something similar will be posted by each entrance door to the Church or worship area:
ATTENTION:
Dear Friends, If you answer YES to any of the following, we ask that you NOT Attend Church today:
  • Have a temperature of 100.4 or higher
  • Lost your sense of taste or smell
  • You or someone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Have come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
The health and wellbeing of everyone is dependent on it.
May The Lord Bless You and Keep You Safe!
6)     All inside services must abide by the current government mandated group size of 10 people or less per service. Multiple services are authorized, provided the worship space is cleaned properly between services, or seating is alternated to avoid potential cross contamination between one service and the other. Please note that the current mandated group size may be changed by the government with little to no warning. We will need to adjust accordingly. God willing, the 10 person limit will be lifted soon.
7)     Appropriate cleaning and disinfecting agents (for the surface being cleaned) will be used. Common areas such as bathrooms as well as often touched items such as door knobs, light switches, handrails, etc…need to be cleaned on a regular basis. The NYS Dept. of Health or CDC websites can provide some guidance.
8)     All inside services must provide adequate space for safe social distancing of at least six feet between individuals or family groups.
9)     Outside services to include lawn and parking lot services may be held. Larger groups than 10 are authorized, provided each individual or family group maintains safe social distancing of at least 6 feet or more from one another. Parked cars must be six feet from one another if people are sitting in them with windows rolled down for the service.
10) The congregation for both indoor and outdoor services must wear masks. The Church will need to have a supply of disposable masks available for anyone who doesn’t bring their own mask with them.
11) The clergy must wear masks when in close proximity to others, to include, the Processional, distribution of communion, and Recessional. Parishes may want to suspend the Processional and Recessional during this time to reduce the number of acolytes and others needed in the Altar Party, and thus cut down on congestion in the sanctuary. Unfortunately, the sanctuaries in many of our churches are not large enough to provide the necessary space needed for social distancing during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
12) The celebrant is NOT required to wear a mask while at the altar, provided they are by themselves and the bread and wine are covered with a linen or pall. Nor are the clergy required to wear a mask while proclaiming the Gospel or preaching, provided they are at least 10 feet away from the nearest person. The Gospel should be proclaimed from the front of the Church instead of the aisle as is customary in many parishes.
13) Hand sanitizer must be used by all people when they first arrive at Church and again right before going to receive communion, for indoor services. For outdoor services (where parishioners bring their own chairs), hand sanitizer is only needed just prior to receiving communion.   I recommend each parish have someone assigned to hold the container of hand sanitizer as each person has the cleaning agent poured in their hands. This person must use the hand sanitizer first before helping others. They must also wear a mask and stand an arm lengths distance from the person they are ministering to.
14) Altar guild members and clergy must thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before setting the altar. Clergy must also clean their hands with hand sanitizer before distributing communion.
15) Communion will be received in only one kind (the host/bread). It will be placed in the hand of the recipient, not on their tongue. Care needs to be taken when placing the host in the person’s hand in order not to physically touch them. I would ask that communion wafers be used, rather than other forms of bread. The celebrant will consume the consecrated wine on behalf of the people. Individual communion cups with wine for the congregation are NOT authorized.
16) Communion will be received while standing (not kneeling), preferably at the head of the center aisle, or it may be taken to people while in their pews or seats. It is important to maintain appropriate social distancing while people come to receive communion. Communion may be distributed to people sitting in their vehicles during parking lot services. Clergy should not bend over into the vehicle to distribute communion, but rather individuals should place their hands outside the car window to receive.
17) For those requesting a blessing rather than communion, blessings will be offered over the person while not physically touching the head of the person being blessed.
18) If there are any baptisms, the clergy must cleanse their hands with hand sanitizer before and after the baptism as well as wear a mask. The Baptismal water will be poured outside following the service. It will not be saved for use as Holy Water.
19) The Peace will need to be shared by means other than personal physical contact. Handshakes and hugs are not allowed at this time.
20) Choirs are not allowed at this time, due to social distancing requirements. One or two people may lead the music, provided they are at least 10 feet away from anyone around them. Some congregations may opt not to allow singing during the coronavirus pandemic. The wearing of masks by the congregation should help reduce the potential of spreading respiratory droplets while singing.
21) Lectors may remove their masks while reading the lessons, provided they are at least 10 feet from anyone in front of them. If the church space doesn’t allow for proper distancing, the lectors need to wear masks.
22) The collection plate should not be passed, but rather be placed in a location that parishioners may access to make their offering.
23) The bread and wine should be placed on the credence table by the altar guild prior to the start of the service, and not brought up at the time of the offertory.
24) Congested areas need to be avoided, especially as people are trying to enter or leave the Church, as well as the communion line and other times when people tend to bunch up. Again, social distancing is very important. Clergy may stand to the side following the service (out of the flow of traffic) if someone needs to speak to them.
25) If possible (especially during the warmer weather) keep the windows and doors of the Church open to improve air circulation with fresh outside air.
26) To cut down on potential cross contamination, parishes may want to print out the service for everyone to have their own copy, or use overhead projections if they have the means of doing so, as an alternative to the use of Prayer Books and Hymnals. If Prayer Books and Hymnals are used, they will need to be sanitized if they are to be used again within three days (the potential life expectancy of the virus on objects).
27)  Holy water fonts must be emptied and removed.
28) There will be no coffee hours or other social gatherings at church during the time of the pandemic. Many parishes are hosting “virtual coffee hours” that are going well and have been well received as an alternative to in-person coffee hours. Worship together at Church and then go home and visit one another online in the safety of your home, having a cup of coffee or tea and a dessert.
29) In-person Vacation Bible School is not permitted this summer due to the inability to maintain appropriate social distancing among kids. Parishes might consider an online version of VBS.
30) In-person Sunday School and Youth Group meetings are suspended until the fall, at which time a determination will be made based on the status of COVID-19.
31) All outside groups using Church property must practice social distancing, wear masks, use hand sanitizer when they arrive, and follow any other guidelines required by the parish during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
32) Unless social distancing requirements can be met, Vestry meetings and other church committees or groups need to be conducted via Zoom or by some other online means.
33) Virtual online, recorded and live-stream services should be continued if possible, even after in-person services resume. Not everyone is able to return to church at this time and countless others who we have not effectively reached before, are now being ministered to in very powerful and life changing ways. Keep up the good work!
    Everyone’s cooperation with these guidelines is greatly appreciated and needed, if we are to provide a safe environment within each of our Churches, for our parishioners and visitors to come and worship our Heavenly Father and Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May God bless each of us richly, as we gather in His name, and go forth offering ourselves as a channel of His love and mercy and healing grace during this time of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Faithfully in Christ,
+Bill
Rt. Rev. William H. Love
Bishop of Albany
Please Note: Upon receipt and review of the above Diocesan Guidelines, the Rector or Clergy in Charge, as well as one Warden are asked to please sign and return the following form to the Diocesan Office. Please click here for the form
Click here for reopening guidelines (Posted 5/27/20)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Earlier this week Governor Cuomo announced a gradual phased approach to reopening businesses, region by region throughout the State.  While certain regions within the Diocese of Albany such as the Mohawk Valley, the Southern Tier and parts of the North Country have now met the Phase-One criteria for businesses to reopen, it is not yet clear which phase (1-4) churches fall into.  According to one source who had been in touch with the Governor’s Office, “they seemed to hint churches will be in Phase-4,” however, at the moment churches are not listed among any of the groups mentioned under each phase.

Yesterday, I emailed Senator Little (someone I know and respect), in an effort to get clarity regarding which phase actually applies to churches.  I have not yet heard back from her, but hope to within the next day or so.

According to the Governor’s plan, seven key metrics or criteria (all of which deal with the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak and the region’s available medical and tracing resources), must be met in each of the 10 regions before that region is eligible for the reopening of  certain businesses and various activities.  In addition, a two-week monitoring period is required between each phase before a region can move from one phase to the next.  At any time, if COVID-19 starts to flare up again in a particular region, the reopening process for that region will be put on hold until each of the seven key metrics are once again met.   Based on these guidelines (if churches are relegated to Phase-4), parishes in the Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier and North Country, will not be eligible for reopening their buildings until Friday, June 26th (six weeks from May 15th — the beginning of Phase-1 in their region).

I am currently in communications with other key ecumenical leaders who are planning to reach out to the Governor in an effort to encourage him to see the vital importance of the Church, especially during these difficult times, in which there is such suffering and loss and need for pastoral care and spiritual nourishment.  In so doing, it is our hope public worship services will resume sooner than later.  I know most of us are very anxious to get our churches open and up and running again.  Unfortunately, until the 10 person limitation on group gatherings is lifted, we are not able to reopen our church buildings for public worship services.

With that said, when we are able to resume public worship services, we will need to follow certain guidelines until the Coronavirus Pandemic is over, in order to provide as safe an environment as possible for our people to come to worship and serve God.  For the last several weeks, I have been working with several Clergy from around the Diocese of Albany in an effort to research and come up with a set of guidelines on how best to protect our parishioners from COVID-19 as we prepare to reopen our Church buildings and once again worship together as Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  We have read dozens of reports from a wide variety of sources (religious, medical and government).  In addition, I have sat in on webinars dealing with the Coronavirus as well as spoken to other bishops about how they are handling COVID-19 and the reopening of churches for public worship services.

I have asked Lay Canon Jerry Carroll to set up eight separate teleconferences/Zoom meetings (one for each deanery) enabling me to meet with the clergy in each deanery to talk about how best to move forward in reopening our church buildings for worship services.  The Zoom meetings will be held this coming Monday and Tuesday (May 18-19).  A separate email invitation will be sent to all the clergy (and the wardens of those parishes where there are no clergy) giving the time and contact information for their deanery meeting.

Once I have had a chance to talk to all the clergy in the deanery meetings, I will finalize the list of guidelines that will need to be followed in each of our congregations when we reopen our buildings and resume public worship services and other ministries.  It will be the expectation that the list of guidelines submitted by the Bishop (with the endorsement of the Standing Committee) will be followed in each congregation.  If the clergy and vestry in any given parish believe the circumstances in their particular congregation require more stringent guidelines, they may add to the Diocesan Guidelines, but NOT subtract from them.

During this time of crisis with the Coronavirus Pandemic, it is important that we recognize that not everyone is in the same situation or has the same understanding of COVID-19, and as a result are responding differently, based on their circumstances.  There are still a great number of unknowns regarding the Coronavirus and how best to protect against it.  There are also various degrees of anxiousness and fear surrounding the Coronavirus.  It is vitally important that we all work together as best we can by the grace of God, demonstrating Christian love and charity toward one another.  By God’s grace and in His time, we will get through this.

In the meantime, I am so proud of all of you (clergy and laity alike) who have stepped out of your comfort zone and demonstrated tremendous creativity in all the various ways you have continued to minister to one another and the unchurched through virtual streaming and online recorded services posted on YouTube, Facebook and other means.  All the various postings of the Daily Office, the Eucharist, Bible Studies, Stations of the Cross, and webinars on various topics have been and continue to be such a blessing and encouragement to so many people, not only in our home parishes and the Diocese of Albany, but literally throughout the world.  By God’s grace and your hard work and ingenuity and the wonders of the internet we are reaching people for Christ in ways that we have never been able to before.

I know it has not been easy and most of us were under a tremendous learning curve when it comes to recording and sending out online services, but you are doing it and God is blessing it.  It is my hope and prayer that these efforts don’t stop once we are able to return to our church buildings, but that they continue in one form or another, so that those who are unable to come to Church are not forgotten, but still ministered to.

For those who are not computer savvy or don’t have the equipment necessary to carry out some of the above mentioned online ministries, a friendly phone call or hand written card or letter to someone who is lonely and homebound can be just as meaningful if not more so.  Through whatever means God gives us, may each of us do our best to share the love of Christ with one another during this difficult, painful and uncertain time in which we find ourselves.  You all remain in my thoughts and prayers.

In Christ’s Love,

+Bill

Rt. Rev. William H. Love
Bishop of Albany

 

For the best viewing option of the online eIssue below, click on Full Screen in the center.
You may also choose to view it as a PDF by using the following link: AE May 2020

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I received notification earlier today from the Chairman of the Hearing Panel, Bishop Nicholas Knisely, that my Hearing / Trial, will NOT take place this Tuesday (April 21st), as originally scheduled. The Hearing Panel is trying to make arrangements through the Episcopal Church Center, for the Hearing to take place in a virtual online format. They are currently working through the logistical as well as legal requirements for such a meeting to occur. It is my hope and prayer that a new date will be set soon. I will keep you posted once I know more. In the meantime, I greatly appreciate your continued prayers for all involved.
In other matters, as you may have heard, Governor Cuomo (in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus) has extended the current New York State mandates regulating group-meetings and social distancing guidelines until May 15th. In cooperation with the Governor’s mandate, all public worship services in the Diocese of Albany will remain suspended until May 15th at which time we will reevaluate the situation in an effort to determine when it will be safe to lift the suspension and return to our home church buildings for corporate worship.
I realize how difficult and disappointing it has been not to be able to worship together in our home parishes, but I am so appreciative to all the clergy and lay leaders throughout the Diocese who are working so hard to continue the work of the Church during these very difficult and uncertain times.
I have been richly blessed and encouraged by all the livestream and online worship services, Bible Studies, and other Church ministries that are being offered via the internet as well as an ever-growing phone call ministry. I encourage everyone in the Diocese to take advantage of the wonderful online services that are being offered at the parish and diocesan level. Every Sunday as well as most week-days, there are ample worship and study opportunities to take advantage of.
While it is easy to focus on all the pain and suffering brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, it is important not to lose sight of many of the positive things that are happening as well. All the online services mentioned above are a very positive development. Though the online ministry, we are reaching countless individuals we would never have reached otherwise. It is my hope and prayer that many of these online worship services and Bible studies will continue even after we are able to return to our Church buildings.
I pray that despite all that is going on with the coronavirus and the suffering and hardship it has caused, that you and your loved ones had a blessed and joyful Easter Sunday. Please know that you are very much in my prayers. May the Lord bless you richly this Easter Season and use you to be a blessing to others.
Faithfully Your Brother in Christ,
+Bill
Bishop of Albany
Easter Sermon 2020 (Printable PDF)

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

     There is no greater news in all the world, than that which we proclaim this Easter Sunday – that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, conquering the power of sin and death – paving the way for all who believe in Him to inherit eternal life.

Easter has always been a very special time for me.  When I was a kid growing up in East Texas, my family and I would often spend Easter with my Dad’s aunt, my Great Aunt Didder.  Her real name was Maggie Lee, but all the family knew her as Didder.  A devout Methodist, she was one of the kindest and most loving, Christ-like people I have ever known.  Having never married, she lived by herself in Terrell, Texas, just outside town on a few acres of land, the remnants of the old family farm.

On Easter Sunday, my family and I would often go to the early Easter service at our home church of St. Dunstan’s in Mineola and then drive to Terrell to spend the rest of the day with Didder.  It was a wonderful time.  We had Easter Egg Hunts in her yard.  She had a white picket fence and flower beds everywhere that made for great hiding places for the eggs.

Afterwards, my sisters and I spent a lot of time out on her front porch swing.  I can still hear it creaking as we swung higher and higher to see who could jump out the farthest.  Often times in the afternoon, we would head down to the old pond in the cow pasture to go crawdad fishing.  Didder would give us little strips of bacon that we would tie on a string and throw out into the water to catch the crawdads.  We never ate them, but we had a great time trying to catch them.

One of the highlights of our time together was the Sunday meal.  Didder wasn’t particularly noted for her cooking, however the one thing she was known for was her fried chicken.  It was always dripping in grease, but it tasted delicious.  We would sit around the table visiting long after the meal was finished.  Those were special times.

Perhaps today, some of you are reminiscing about Easters gone by with family and friends at a relative’s home, or the glorious Easter celebration in your home parish.   Tragically this Easter, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we aren’t able to go in person to be with family and loved ones, nor are we able to go to our home Church to celebrate Easter with family and friends; listening to the Choir sing; kneeling in our favorite pew, quietly saying our prayers; hearing the Gospel read and preached; and best of all going up to receive Holy Communion, touching and tasting the consecrated bread and wine — the blessed body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who would ever have thought that the day would come when Church buildings around the world would be locked, sitting empty on Easter Sunday of all days?  Tragically, often times it is not until something is gone or taken away from us, that we come to realize how truly important and special it is.

Mary Magdalene, along with Peter and John and the other disciples of Jesus, could relate very much to that sense of emptiness, that sense of loss, that overwhelming sense of sorrow and confusion that many of us are feeling right now as we witness the world being turned upside down all around us.  They experienced the same thing, but even more so as they witnessed firsthand the brutal death of Jesus on the cross.  The One they had loved and believed in, the One they had dedicated their lives to follow, the One in whom all their hopes and dreams lay, was taken from them and they couldn’t do anything to stop it.

In today’s Gospel passage from John, we are told that Mary Magdalene got up early before dawn that first Easter Sunday and went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried three days earlier.  She and the other women (who aren’t named in John’s Gospel account), went to the tomb hoping to properly prepare Jesus’ body for burial, having been unable to do so earlier due to the Sabbath.  This was to be their final act of love for the One they loved so much.

When Mary arrived at the tomb, she discovered that the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty.  Jesus’ body wasn’t there.  Not only had she lost Him through death, but now she would be denied that final expression of love on her part.  Filled with grief and sorrow and confusion, all that she could think of was that someone must have stolen Jesus’ body.  Not knowing what else to do, Mary ran to tell Peter and the others about the empty tomb.

Upon hearing this news, Peter and John jumped up and ran to the tomb.  John arrived first.  He peered in the tomb from outside, but was unwilling to go in.  Peter, in his normal bold manner, upon arriving at the tomb, went right in.  John then followed.  They discovered it was just as Mary had told them – the burial cloths were there, but Jesus’ body was gone.

After seeing this for himself, the Scriptures tells us that John “saw and believed.”  What is not real clear, is exactly what John “believed.”  In seeing the empty tomb, was John finally able to believe what Jesus had been trying to tell him and the other disciples, about how He must die, but then on the third day rise from the dead?  Or did he simply believe that the tomb was empty as Mary Magdalen had told them?

Whatever he “believed” in that moment, apparently he kept it to himself, at least for the time being.  He and Peter left the empty tomb and went back to where they were staying, or more accurately, where they were hiding (for fear of the Jewish authorities), and tried to make sense of all that they had witnessed.  Apparently, they did little if anything to try to comfort Mary, but rather left her weeping outside the tomb.  Do you ever find yourself not knowing what to say to someone during times of trouble or sorrow, or tragedy, such as the times we are living in now?

Fortunately, while we don’t always know what to say or do, the Lord does.  He won’t abandon us in our confusion or time of sorrow or loss.  He loves us and promises to be with us always, whatever the situation, just as He was with Mary.

Finding her weeping outside the tomb, Jesus spoke to Mary saying, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”  Lost in her own sorrow and grief, she failed to recognize Him.  Thinking he must be the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.” (John 20:15)

Once again, Jesus spoke to her, but this time He called her by name – “Mary” In that special sacred moment when Jesus called Mary’s name, her eyes and heart and mind were opened and she recognized Him.  The One she had seen die on the cross three days earlier, was now standing alive in front of her, having conquered the power of sin and death.  She was not alone, she had not been abandoned — Jesus was there with her.

What burdens are tearing at your heart and mind this Easter Sunday?  What fear or sorrow or loss, what seemingly impossible situation are you struggling with right now? What brings tears to your eyes and a heaviness to your heart?  Jesus wants to help.

  • Perhaps you have lost, or fear losing your job or business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and don’t know how you are going to pay the bills or make ends meet;
  • Perhaps you have just seen your hard earned retirement account that had been doing well in the stock market plunge in value these past few weeks, robbing you of the income you need now, or that sense of security and peace of mind you had thinking your retirement years would be taken care of;
  • Perhaps you have gone to the store only to find the shelves empty of the food and supplies you need for yourself and your family;
  • Perhaps you are worried about your children now that the schools and colleges are closed;
  • Perhaps you are fearful for your own health or that of a loved one, afraid that you or they might catch the coronavirus, or have already done so and are now fighting for your/their life;
  • Perhaps you are one of the healthcare workers that are exhausted and overwhelmed by the seemingly endless number of sick and dying people entrusted to your care;
  • Perhaps you are mourning the death of a friend or loved one and are grieved that you are not allowed to go and show your final respects at their funeral due to social distancing rules;
  • Perhaps you are feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness and isolation or lack of freedom locked up in your home unable to go to church or work or school or just get out for some fresh air.
  • Or, perhaps the burden you are struggling with is something you have been carrying for a long time and has nothing to do with the current issues facing the world.

All of these and countless other things that could have been mentioned are very real concerns.  They can easily overwhelm us and rob us of all sense of joy and hope if we try to carry these burdens by ourselves.

While Jesus never promised that we wouldn’t suffer pain or sorrow or loss, He did promise that He would be with us always as we go through whatever the world might throw at us, giving us that which we need most, even in the darkest and most painful moments.

Jesus is with you now, wherever you might be, whatever you are going through.  Listen as He calls your name and speaks to your heart and soul and mind.  My precious child, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Dear Friends, the coronavirus is indeed serious and must be dealt with.  The Lord will help us get through this time of illness and economic uncertainty, if we turn to Him.

With that said however, there is a far greater enemy at hand – one that threatens not only our physical health and financial security, but our very souls.  God didn’t create us simply for life in this world, but rather He created us to be with Him for all eternity.  Ultimately, we are all going to die, if not from the coronavirus than from something else.  Long before the coronavirus entered the world in a distant city in China, people all over the world were dying every day from accidents, violence, disease, or simply from old age when their physical bodies wore out.

My great aunt Didder died on Wednesday, August 14, 1974.  It was my 17th birthday.  She had a massive stroke while attending the Wednesday Evening Church Service.  Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to die, than while worshipping God, surrounded by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Earlier that day, before she died, Didder mailed my birthday card (post marked 14 Aug.1974).  I still have that card along with the five dollar check inside.  I keep it tucked away in her Bible that she gave me.  Her very last written words to me at the bottom of the card was “I love you!”  I will never forget Didder and all those special Easter Sundays and the other times we spent together.  God’s love radiated from her in a special way that has touched my life forever.

A few moments ago, I spoke of an enemy far greater than the coronavirus that has come into the world.  If left unchecked, it would kill every human being beginning with Adam all the way through to the very last person born into this world.

All of humanity has been contaminated with this deadly enemy which will not only rob us of our physical lives, but far more importantly, our spiritual lives.  If left unchecked, it will separate us from God and destroy our very soul.  The enemy I speak of is sin.

The Good News is, that unlike all the doctors and scientists that are feverishly working around the clock to try to come up with a vaccine or medicine to battle the coronavirus, God, in His love for us, has already provided an antidote to save us from sin.  He did so over 2000 years ago when He sent His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ into the world, taking our humanity upon Himself.  Jesus became one of us, in order that He might save us.

When Jesus went to the cross on Calvary on Good Friday, He offered Himself as the one full perfect sufficient sacrifice for the sins of all the world, for your sins, for my sins, for the sins of every human being that has, or ever will walk the face of the earth.  In an act of total, unconditional, all sacrificial love, Jesus stretched out His arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, shedding His blood in order to provide the only antidote effective against sin.

Jesus died in order that we might live and have life abundantly, not only in this world, but more importantly in the life to come when we pass from this world to the next.  On this most special and holy day – Easter Sunday, we celebrate our Lord’s glorious resurrection, through which He demonstrated His VICTORY over the power of sin and death.

Christians throughout the world today, even though we may be physically separated from one another and our Church buildings, cry out with one voice – “Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!”

Through His death and glorious resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ has sent a message to the world – a message of Hope, a message of Peace, a message of Love.  Jesus is the antidote to our greatest enemy.  He asks us to believe in Him, to trust Him, to follow Him, and to share our faith with others.  In so doing, we will have life and life abundantly in this world and in the life to come in His heavenly kingdom for all eternity.  AMEN!   Happy Easter!

 

In Christ’s love,

+Bill

Bishop of Albany

Printable PDF

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There is an old adage (adapted from a line in “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns) which states, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”   It seems the more we try to plan and adjust to our current situation with the coronavirus, the more monkey wrenches keep getting thrown in, causing us to have to plan again.

Unfortunately, as the coronavirus continues on with no clear end in sight, it has become necessary to make several changes and adjustments to upcoming scheduled events at the parish and diocesan level.  The first of which has to do with Holy Week and Easter.  As I had shared with you earlier when we temporarily suspended all public Church services in cooperation with the governmental restriction on the size of group gatherings in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, I had hoped that we might be able to resume services in time for Holy Week and Easter.  With the number of coronavirus cases continuing to grow and the peak not expected for several more weeks, the current suspension will need to remain in place at least through the middle of April and perhaps longer.  We will reevaluate the situation on April 15th and every week thereafter until it is safe once again to return to our Church buildings.

Recognizing how important the celebration of Easter is to all of us, I encourage each of our parishes to plan a glorious Easter celebration for the first or second Sunday after we are able to resume public services in our Church buildings.  While the Church has created a liturgical calendar to ensure an orderly way of worshiping God, remembering and celebrating the life and holy acts of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is important to remember that Jesus is the Lord of time.  He is not controlled or restricted by the calendar. In Hebrews we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). Given our current situation, I believe it would be very appropriate for us to celebrate the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, of His passing from death to new life, as we ourselves pass from this time of separation from one another to the time we can be joyfully reunited with one another in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the meantime however, during this time of suspended public services, I encourage us all to take advantage of the many livestream and recorded online Church services that are available.  Many of our clergy and lay leaders are providing wonderful live-stream and online worship services in the form of Morning and Evening Prayer, Holy Eucharist, The Litany, The Stations of the Cross, Bible Studies, and a variety of other services.  I even heard of one parish that organized an online Coffee Hour where parishioners were able to visit together via the internet.  These different services can be found on the various parish websites, all of which can be accessed through the diocesan website:  www.albanyepiscopaldiocese.org

The Diocese of Albany website has a great deal to offer as well, not the least of which is the weekly online Sunday Holy Communion Service.  My wife Karen and I were just able to worship together this morning at home, complements of the Communion Service on the diocesan website.  I must say it was a bit strange sitting in the “congregation” with my wife, watching myself lead the service on the computer screen.  Fr. Derik Roy gave an outstanding sermon, as did Fr. Paul Hartt last week.  I highly commend these services to you.  An online Palm Sunday and Easter Service will be provided, helping to fill in the gap until we can be reunited in our parish churches for a more glorious Easter celebration.

While very supportive of all the livestream and online services being offered, I would discourage any plans for parking lot services or curbside drive-by communions where people are encouraged to drive up and receive Holy Communion while in the car.  I appreciate the intent and desire to make Communion accessible during this time when we are unable to meet in our church buildings, however, it goes against the government and health officials attempts to limit exposure and keep people home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Looking now at other diocesan events that have been impacted by the coronavirus and the resulting group gathering restrictions, the following ministry events are being postponed to a future date, yet to be determined:  the Women’s Welcome Home Initiative (WHI); and the Men’s Cursillo Weekend.  All special or regularly scheduled diocesan committee meetings to include Standing Committee, Trustees, Episcopal Charities and Diocesan Council, etc. will be held via Zoom meetings or conference calls until further notice.

A similar arrangement is being made by the National Church for my upcoming Title IV Hearing Panel proceedings which had been scheduled for Tuesday, April 21st in Albany.  The Hearing Panel / Trial will not take place in person at the Desmond Hotel as originally planned, but will now be a virtual meeting online.  People will still be able to observe the proceeding on line, but will not be allowed to participate directly.  At the moment, it is not clear whether it will still happen on April 21st, or whether a new date will be set.  I will let everyone know when I know.

This past Friday, the Standing Committee voted unanimously to postpone the annual Diocesan Convention until the Fall.  A new Call to Convention will be issued by the Secretary of the Diocese once the date and location have been set.  A new deadline will be set for turning in nomination forms and other information related to the Convention.  All the nomination forms that have already been turned in, as well as the parish registration forms identifying parish deputies will be held on file and do not need to be redone.  This year’s convention, unfortunately will need to be scaled down considerably.  We will deal with all the official business that needs to be covered, but unfortunately we will not be able to hold workshops, plenary sessions, the youth rally and other special features that have been such an important part of our Diocesan Convention for the past 20+ years.  This has not been an easy decision, but given our current circumstances, we are not able to hold Convention as normal this year.  By God’s grace, next year we hope to return to our regular Diocesan Convention format.

The status of this year’s Beaver Cross Summer Youth Program is still up in the air.  It is our sincere hope and prayer that Beaver Cross will take place as scheduled this summer.  A final decision will be made by May 15th.  It all depends on what is happening with the coronavirus at that time.

There is no question that the coronavirus has wreaked havoc in all aspects of our lives – our personal and family lives; our work; our finances; our health (for many); our parish and diocesan lives; our local communities, state, nation, and indeed the entire world are all being severely impacted.  No one is left unaffected.  In many ways, the coronavirus and all the various responses to it have turned our lives upside down.

As we are all experiencing, this can be a very unsettling and often frightening time, and yet the Lord doesn’t want us to live in fear.  As the Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the Children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather the Spirit you received brought about your adoption…And by him we cry ‘Abba, Father,’  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14-16).  My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, God loves you.  He has not forgotten nor abandoned us.  He is with us.  The very last recorded words of our Lord Jesus Christ right before He ascended into Heaven after His death and resurrection was, “I am with  you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).  His Holy Spirit lives and dwells within us.

Jesus never promised that we wouldn’t go through difficult and trying times.  He never promised that we wouldn’t experience suffering, sorrow and loss.  What He did promise is that as we go through those times, times such as now with the coronavirus, He would be with us and help us through it.  I don’t know all that God is going to do in and through the coronavirus, but I do know that we can trust Him.  In Christ is our hope.

I would like to close with a prayer written by Bishop Ken “Fanta” Clarke, our dear friend from Northern Ireland:

Unshakeable God, at this time of national crisis and personal pain, we look to you for help and hope.  We don’t understand what is happening.  We are fearful and apprehensive.  We grieve to see people dying.  We are anxious about the future.  We are fearful about surviving financially.  We are really just about hanging in.  We can’t get a grip about what is going on. It hurts to see people suffer.  It hurts to see doctors, nurses, and care workers stretched to their limits.  It is so painful to think of those in isolation who are deeply worried.  It is heartbreaking to see those who are bereaved.  It is distressing to know that some people are utterly alone.  We cry out to you for help and hope.  We ask your forgiveness for our pride and folly.  We repent of our selfishness and sin.  Show us your mercy Lord.  Heal our land.  God of compassion, stretch out your hands of healing.  God of grace, show us your mercy.  God of truth, may your Word bring hope.  Lord Jesus, walk with us in our pain, fear, and confusion.  Once again calm the storm.  Once again heal the hurting.  Once again bring hope and help.  Bless all who are serving selflessly to care for others.  Give our leaders wisdom and vision.  Help them to make the right decisions at this unprecedented time.  Strengthen and protect all who are still working.  Thank you for the thoughtful actions of many people.  Thank you for all whose lives are marked by acts of kindness.  Thank you for churches seeking first your Kingdom, a Kingdom that cannot be shaken.  Thank you that in you, the unshakeable God, there is rock solid hope for the present and future.  Thank you that you are the God of the Cross and the God of the resurrection.  Breathe afresh your Holy Spirit upon us, upon our nation, and across the world at this time.  In the powerful Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

 

Faithfully Your Brother in Christ,

+Bill

Bishop of Albany

 

P.S.  Just a reminder, that while our church buildings are temporarily closed, the Church – the People of God,  the Body of Christ, You and Me still have work to do.  I invite and encourage each of us to think and pray about what we can do, individually and corporately, (even with all the restrictions placed upon us) during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, to serve as a channel of God’s love and mercy and healing grace.  Who has the Lord put on your heart to reach out to through a phone call or letter?  Who might you help get groceries?  What have you been wanting to do for the Lord, if you only had the time?  Perhaps, NOW is that time.  God Bless!