March 12, 2020
Dear members and friends of the Community of Saint Peter,
In light of the rapidly escalating concern and precautions being taken nationwide to prevent further infection with the coronavirus, all scheduled activities for The Community of Saint Peter will be suspended until further notice.
- There will be no liturgy for the next two Sundays, March 15 and 22. We have yet to determine the status for March 29.
- Bob Marrone’s final presentations on Monday afternoon and evening and the retreat at River’s Edge with Shanon Sterringer on March 21 will be postponed.
- The status of the Evening of Reconciliation scheduled for Thursday, March 26, will be decided closer to the date.
- Liturgy of the Word will be livestreamed on our Facebook page at 11:00 a.m. on Sundays.
In the meantime, Community members should follow protocols that are being recommended everywhere regarding unnecessary travel and contact with others, personal hygiene, and self-monitoring for respiratory discomfort and fever.
This decision comes after consultation with our Board president, Joe Konen, and several physicians who are members of the Community.
I reached out in particular to Community member Scott Frank MD who is currently Director of Public Health Initiatives at CWRU Medical School and was the founder of Population and Public Health Sciences there. Scott is also my son David’s godfather and has been a good friend for more than 30 years. His recommendations and cautions have been reiterated by three other physicians: Marie Dietrich, Gina Pestak, and Roy Ferguson.
On Wednesday morning, Scott Frank wrote:
- Multiple public health experts recommend no public gatherings of more than 25 people. I suspect most churches will ignore this, but most business places are trying to comply. It would be responsible to make the congregation aware of this recommendation and let people decide for themselves.
- Be clear as holy water that no one should come to church if they have ANY respiratory symptoms.
- Advise parishioners with significant immunocompromise they should stay home, not just for church but in general.
- The fatality rate for people over 80 is very high, 15%; 70-79 is 8%; 60-69 is 4%. Again, encouraging our 80+ group to consider not coming to church until the risk is clearer would be reasonable. I know that many in the community, particularly the most devout, are 80+. Hard decision on how to advise them.
“It is easy to take a laissez faire attitude of “what will be will be” but there is no question that public health measures such as these will limit spread and save lives. You may be aware of the Korean church that was a major vector of spread. Or the DC church where hundreds were asked to self-quarantine when the pastor had Covid-19. Or that the governor of Kentucky asked that church services be cancelled. As important as saving your own life is, being proactive about not being the one or the place who spreads it to others is something this community should be all about.”
Finally, Scott added: “In case you don’t know, there is thought to be a 2-14 day period when someone may be contagious but not symptomatic. This is WAY longer than for most viruses. It can remain active on fomites (inanimate objects) for up to 9 days. This is WAY longer than for most viruses. For every case contracted, it is estimated that that person will infect at least 3 other people. While the death rate is not high for low risk people, the more people who become infected, the fewer resources will be available for the sickest, and as resources are depleted, the death rate will likely go up.”
On Wednesday evening, Scott was fully endorsing the suspension of all activities that would put members at unnecessary risk. Also, by Wednesday evening, the President had spoken, the NBA had suspended the season, and the CLE International Film Festival and St. Patrick’s Day Parade were cancelled.
Bottom line, we do not want even one member of the Community, a member of our extended families, or an associate or friend to contract the virus because of our lack of vigilance. And the fact that we could be contagious and not know it prompts me to suggest we should exercise extreme caution lest we unwittingly infect others.
It is disappointing to forego our gathering in the midst of a Lenten season so rich with story and song, but we are a creative bunch and we can find ways to resource our way through the heart of Lent with prayerful journeys of our own.
With curtailed schedules, you will now have more time to spend with Richard Rohr’s daily meditations, EarthBeat at ncronline, or that book you have been wanting to read. Call friends you have been thinking about or write that letter that has been nagging. Spend some time reassessing how many miles you travel for necessities, trips that can now be combined or eliminated altogether.
This inconvenience could evolve into a gift, a time to reflect gratefully that we live where resources and expertise are abundant enough to address this pandemic responsibly, with resolve instead of panic. Our reassembly in a few short weeks will be all the more joyful if we use our “meantime” carefully.
We will continue to post a homily online, accessible through our website. Hopefully it can be in place Sunday morning. Sunday’s scripture references were posted in the March 11 newsletter. (The Stations of the Street at North Presbyterian Church on March 18 has also been cancelled.) Our email list will help us keep in touch. Perhaps you would be able to reach out to those you know who are homebound and might not be online. They would love to hear from you.
Ten years ago, when Historic Saint Peter Church was closed by the Diocese of Cleveland, the faithful continued to meet for prayer and fellowship for a little more than four months until the new space at 7100 Euclid was ready. Members of the new Community of Saint Peter met to plan prayer services, firm up the governance structure, keep members informed, and prepare our new home for occupancy. No time was wasted. The hiatus was rich with anticipation and preparation.
We can do this again. We can adjust our expectations and find multiple ways to nurture our Community. We will be together again soon.
Bob Kloos, for the Pastoral Staff and Leadership of the Community of Saint Peter