The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona

 

Breathe on Me, Breath of God

May 29,2020

 

This Sunday in our churches, we will hear the story from the Gospel of John describing Jesus' appearance to the disciples on the evening of Easter Sunday, when he says to them, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And then he breathes on them, and says "Receive the Holy Spirit."

 

He breathed on them . . . The Spirit is given to us by Jesus as breath.

 

And now we hear -- once again -- those chilling words "I can't breathe" from a black man as he is asphyxiated, slowly, by a police officer. The Spirit of Life extinguished from George Floyd in an act of violence that mirrors so many other murders of our African American siblings: Eric Garner, whose dying words were also "I can't breathe" as he was put in an unapproved choke hold by a NYPD officer. Philando Castile in Minneapolis a few years ago. Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor more recently. And so many countless others through the decades.

 

The work of giving breath is the work of the Spirit. It is the foundational work of the Spirit and of the Church. Wherever breath is stolen through injustice, Jesus cries out for change. And Jesus cries out for the church to have courage. Jesus does not breathe on us and say "keep this to yourselves." Jesus breathes on us and sends us out to do the work of the Spirit in the world. To give breath.

 

And speaking from Arizona, I would be remiss if I did not note that breath is being stolen through a virus particularly in our Native American communities, exacerbated by a similar strain of injustice and historic racism that has left so many people on tribal lands so vulnerable.

 

If I was asked to speak about racism 20 or 30 years ago, I would have said very different things than what I say now. Decades of listening to people of color and observing and witnessing their stories, reading books, has transformed my own thinking and convinced me of the reality of systemic racism and injustice, and of the need for continued broad action to combat them, in ways that I might not have imagined 20 or 30 years ago, when I would have said that racism was bad, but I would not have been able to identify how I had benefited from being born white, or have believed that police, judges, store clerks-- and even church leaders -- treat people differently, even when they do not consciously want to, based upon the color of their skin.

 

And that gives me the little sliver of hope today, to accompany my mourning and grief and anger. It is possible for someone who is white to be converted; to see racism differently; to believe the stories of people of color; to learn our history; and to act against racism. It is not easy, and it is not nearly as frequent as Jesus would like it to be.

 

The story of Pentecost in the book of Acts is about a diverse group of people -- who do not get along or admire the disciples particularly -- gathering together and having the Word of God cut through their divisions and speak in words they could hear. Words that they understood. Words that changed them.

 

I invite everyone who is hearing this homily to pray this Sunday for George Floyd and his family and all those who are mourning him. Say his name. And I invite those who are hearing this homily and who are white to read one of the books listed below. Commit yourself, through the power of the Spirit, to opening your ears, and upholding the breath of our siblings who are suffering. God bless you. And God bless the work ahead of us. May the Spirit blow powerfully through our streets and our institutions, and shatter the forces that keep us in this endless cycle of violence and hatred. Amen.

 

America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis

 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland

 

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

 

The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism, and Religious Diversity in America by Jeannine Hill Fletcher



Gathering for Abundant Life: Arizona Church and Worship in the time of COVID-19

May 11, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

"Are we there yet?"

Anyone who has travelled with children—or anyone who travelled as a child—knows that

plaintive cry from the back seat. We are tired of the journey; we are tired of waiting. We are tired

of the limits that sitting in a car imposes. We are ready to be there—wherever "there" may be.

The people of Israel felt that impatience on their 40-year journey from Egypt to the Promised

Land. They got angry at each other, they missed the way things were, and they strayed. They also experienced the radical benevolence of God in sustaining them with unexpected heavenly food and guiding them, eventually, to their new home. A home that was different from the home

they had left, but all the more precious for their time in the desert.

Our Arizona churches are still in the early stages of our journey with COVID-19. We are not "there" yet—and we are not going to be getting "there" any time soon. This journey is not going to be a matter of weeks, but months or years. We will experience—we are experiencing—the

impatience and frustration of a child in a car or the people of Israel during the Exodus. We are also experiencing the radical benevolence of God in sustaining our communities through online worship, generous financial giving, and renewed pastoral bonds and connections. We are heading into a future that is uncertain except for the knowledge that it will be different from the way it was.

So, we are not "there" yet. But we are "here." We are here in the present moment, in our present

circumstances. And Jesus is here with us. Our Task Force has followed the lead of the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control, American Enterprise Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Episcopal Relief and Development, and other experts to create the document "Gathering for Abundant Life: Arizona Church and

Worship in the time of COVID-19." This document will provide guidance for congregations in

the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona to regather during Phase II for some in-person worship and ministry. It will also provide a roadmap and some markers for when we will be able to enter Phase III, which will enable larger gatherings and more face to face ministry.

This may not be a linear journey. A congregation—or the entire diocese—may enter Phase II,

but discover that we need to return to Phase I due to a second wave outbreak of the virus, or a

church member who tests positive for COVID-19.

Bishop Reddall Letter

May 11, 2020

Page 2

Some members of our congregations and clergy have health vulnerabilities such that they will

not be able to participate in person during Phase II, so we urge the continuation of online

offerings for both worship and formation. If the clergy in charge of a congregation are unable,due to health concerns, to lead worship during Phase II, please contact my office to receive support for your lay leaders offering Morning Prayer, or to find supply clergy who are available.

In our Diocese, I am tentatively offering May 31 as the first day that congregations may begin to

enter Phase II and gather for in-person worship, pending:

· A move to Phase II for the State of Arizona by Governor Doug Ducey

· City and local officials' lifting of stay at home restrictions

· A sustained decrease in new COVID-19 cases, and availability of testing in your congregation's county

· Compliance with the following guidelines

· Approval of your congregational plan for Phase II by me

Based on what we are seeing on the Arizona Department of Health website, it is likely that most congregations will not be able to gather in person until after May 31.

We will resist the temptation to pretend the world is the way we want it to be, rather than as it actually is. We will uphold the central command of Jesus to love our neighbors. We will learn and adapt as we journey forward.

This plan depends upon a high level of trust.

We trust that people who are ill will stay home.

We trust that those who attend worship will follow the guidelines.

We trust that those who attend worship and are subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 will immediately inform their clergy.

We trust that God is here with us, in this present moment, and will continue to love us, guide us,and sustain us.

I am incredibly grateful for the work of the Task Force in preparing these guidelines.

 

Yours in Christ,

+Jennifer

The Right Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall

Sixth Episcopal Bishop of Arizona

AZ Diocese Coronavirus Information

 


Living on the Ark in the Time of COVID-19

April 24, 2020

 

At our Standing Committee yesterday, I began appointing a Task Force for Reopening Arizona Churches which will meet over the next two weeks to draw up a plan for how to safely reopen our churches during the COVID-19 epidemic. We are taking into account resources from the Centers for Disease Control, a paper from Johns Hopkins University directed at state governors, and the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. The Task Force represents churches of all sizes, spread geographically across Arizona.

 

Part of the intense difficulty of this epidemic is that we cannot know exactly when it will be safe for churches of different places, sizes, and vulnerabilities. We are going to do our best to take into account all of those variables, and offer a plan that will give your congregation the tools necessary to regather when it is safe to do so, in a way that maintains the best chance of keeping the community safe. It is hard to live into an unknown future. But with Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, I have confidence that we will do so with God's blessing and help.

 

In the meantime, I hope that you will enjoy the following theological reflection on life on the ark, and the patience that Noah and his family must have had to keep themselves safe during and after the flood.

 



Message from Bishop Reddall Regarding Coronavirus Response Updates

March 24, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

We have a number of updates about faithfully living through this season of COVID-19 in the Diocese of Arizona.

But first, I want to commend all the clergy and lay leaders in our congregations who managed to get their communities worshiping, praying, studying, and conversing online so quickly, and those who established phone trees, and made pastoral calls to members who would otherwise feel isolated and alone. Christ has been demonstrably present in the Church in Arizona this week. Amen.

WORSHIP

I commend to all our congregations the resource of a webinar hosted on Monday at Virginia Theological Seminary, "Triduum Under Quarantine." The videos are available on YouTube and the worship materials are available on their Google drive.

I have heard a number of questions from clergy about practices around Holy Communion. I will respond more fully to them at a future time when I can do so more thoroughly. But know that I hear your questions, and am in conversation with a number of colleagues about a response that reflects our Eucharistic theology and well as our pastoral concern for members of our congregations.

I am also in the process of setting up an alternative for the annual Renewal of Ordination Vows service on Holy Tuesday. Clergy, please keep that date and time open for some sort of worship with me.

We are curating a list of congregations offering online worship on Sundays and weekdays so that people across the diocese can participate as they are able. Please add your services, with links on our Google Sheet.

We had a question about whether you could count online viewers as part of your "Average Sunday Attendance." Until we receive some other guidance from The Episcopal Church about how to record online attendance, please do NOT include online views in your Service Record Book as attending worship. However, I do think this is useful and instructive data to collect-so I encourage you to keep track of your online views because it may help us shape our evangelism in the future.

FINANCIAL UPDATES

Many of you received an email from the Church Pension Group on Monday stating that dioceses are able to ask CPG for a waiver of two months of clergy pension assessments during a disaster. We are completing the application for a waiver of clergy pension assessments for April and May of this year for the entire diocese. Our position is that the Governor's emergency declaration applies to all congregations, and all congregations are experiencing a significant financial burden from the COVID-19 disaster. When we receive a determination from CPG about our application, we will notify you.

More immediately, the Standing Committee approved the creation of a Diocesan Relief Fund to allow congregations who are unable to meet their payroll obligations to obtain a quick loan in order to do so. The application is available on our Coronavirus Resources webpage (under Diocesan Resources).

In the meantime, please continue to encourage your congregation to maintain their pledges and donate online. If you do not currently have online giving, and would like to set it up, FaithStreet is offering the Diocese additional accounts for those congregations.

Please contact bill@azdiocese.org" >Canon Bill Potts to learn more.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS RESPONSE DURING COVID-19

The first day I put on a clergy collar was September 11, 2001. Living through that disaster, as well as Hurricane Sandy, has made me cognizant of the importance of responding to immediate needs, but also to making decisions that support our long-term ability to respond to disasters well after the intense initial period we are in now. Information on the "Lifecycle of a Disaster" is available on our Disaster/Emergency Preparedness webpage.

Our diocese is a member of the Arizona VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) organization. The leadership of AZ VOAD has reached out to all of its members to ask if there are services that we would not be able to provide because of the COVID-19 crisis. Although I have closed our churches to in-person worship, I am authorizing our churches to be available for disaster response as shelters and/or meal preparation (for those with commercial kitchens) if the church is able to provide the volunteers. Each church would make its own decision about their ability to help.

The Red Cross, one of the members of AZ VOAD, has put out an appeal for places to hold blood drives because many of their regular locations (e.g., schools) are not available now and there is an urgent need for blood of all types. To host a blood drive, a church would only have to open and close the building where the drive would be held and make the restrooms available. No staffing would be necessary by the church. Below is the contact person for the Red Cross. Please reach out and let her know if your church can accommodate.

Christina Flores | Account Manager II

American Red Cross Blood Services

602-448-6169 (c)

PASTORAL CARE

The current practice of "social distancing" means that there should be no in-person visits, by clergy or Lay Eucharistic Visitors, to shut-ins to bring communion, with very few exceptions. There should absolutely be phone calls, letters, cards, and where possible, Zoom conversations or other means of communication.

One absolute exception to that is when a person is near death. Many hospitals in our state are now officially closed for visitors, including clergy, but we have heard from both chaplains and our clergy that it is often possible to get admitted for brief visits with the dying. If you need to make such a visit, please contact the hospital chaplain's office first, and they should be able to help you gain access.

I am, as always, conscious of the incredible privilege of serving as your bishop.

 

Faithfully,

+Jennifer

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall

Sixth Bishop of Arizona

 

Message from Bishop Reddall Regarding Worship and Other Gatherings

March 16, 2020

"That it may please thee to support, help, and comfort all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation, We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord." --the Great Litany, BCP page 151.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I write to give instructions for congregations in the Diocese of Arizona in the coming weeks in light of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for gatherings of groups during this pandemic of COVID-19.

I am instructing all of our congregations to cancel all in-person, public worship through at least April 20, and I expect it will be likely to continue longer, as the CDC is recommending cancelling 8 weeks of public gatherings. I also instruct our congregations to cancel all public events involving more than 10 people during this time, including classes, rehearsals, and meetings. All in-person Diocesan events during this time are also cancelled or being moved to online platforms.

I do not take this decision lightly. But it is made out of love. In this particular season, loving our neighbors means being apart from them.

Guidance for several areas of our congregational life is contained below.

WORSHIP

Several of our congregations in Arizona experimented with offering live-streamed worship yesterday. You are all permitted and encouraged to do so; the Diocese is going to attempt to feature one specific service each week to remind us that we are all in this together, and that we can gather collectively in prayer and praise.

I note that we are not cancelling prayer -- if anything we are called to pray more, not less, during this time of trial. We will be offering additional online prayer resources as the days proceed. But at home, use your Book of Common Prayer. If you do not have one, go to your local Episcopal Church and ask to borrow one. If you do not know how to use it for Morning Prayer or other services, we will teach you. I'm planning to do a YouTube tutorial tomorrow on how to pray Morning Prayer on your own. Nothing can separate us from the love of God-and nothing can force our prayers to cease.

PASTORAL CARE and FELLOWSHIP

We are called to love one another, and we are now called to do so in more creative ways. Work with your congregation to establish a phone tree, and reach out particularly to those who are elderly or isolated. Have children write letters and draw pictures for the homebound.

I know many in our congregations will be missing coffee hour as much as worship. Tiffany Cramer (tiffany@azdiocese.org">tiffany@azdiocese.org">tiffany@azdiocese.org), our Events Coordinator, has offered to be a liaison for helping teach you how to set up an online event for your congregation so that you can see each other's faces and talk to friends. Even when you are confined to your home, you are not alone. Christ binds us to one another in life and even in death.

OUTREACH

If there is one area where we must continue to put ourselves at some risk, it is in caring for the most economically vulnerable in our communities. I encourage all congregations to see how they can maintain their food pantries, meal programs, small 12-step meetings, and other ministries that will be absolutely essential during the time when hourly employees are unable to work, and ever more people find themselves food insecure. Do so wisely: keep social distance, disinfect everything, and offer meals to go, or drive up food pantries rather than in your buildings. But do not cease serving the vulnerable. And I encourage those who are able to donate to their clergy's discretionary funds, so that our clergy have the capacity to help those who need help when they come to our doors.

CHURCH OFFICES

At this time, I do not see a need to instruct congregations to close their offices entirely. Follow CDC guidelines about keeping yourselves safe, use good judgment about which staff and volunteers are at-risk and should stay home, and work remotely if you can. But phones need to be answered if possible, and instructions given for how to connect if you are in need. An essential function of church life right now is communications: keep talking to your people through phone trees, Zoom gatherings, your website, and good old-fashioned mail. Update your signage, so that people who come to your property know how to get in touch with a human being.

FOR THOSE WHO GET SICK

It appears to me, from what I have read, that even with all these precautions, it is likely that many of us will end up acquiring COVID-19. There is no shame in doing so. Seek help, according to the recommendations of the CDC and others, and let your clergy know so that they can be helpful in making sure you receive the care you need, and have access to the supplies you need.

Canon Nicole Krug, our Diocesan Disaster Coordinator, is developing a protocol for congregations who have members with COVID-19 and are concerned that the disease may have spread within the congregations.

FINANCE

Cancelling public worship is going to have economic effects for our congregations and our diocese. As the beginning of a plan, we have three guidelines:

• I am asking all congregations to continue to pay all of their staff, even staff who may not be working because of the suspension of worship.

• I am asking all church members to maintain their pledges, as they are able.

• I am in the process of asking the Standing Committee to approve a Diocesan Relief Fund to assist congregations in maintaining their payroll, insurance payments, etc. if necessary.

WHAT WILL THE DIOCESE BE DOING?

Right now, I envision the Diocesan Office as a clearing house for questions, and a source of connection for congregations in need. Some staff members will work remotely; others will come in to the office.

We have set up a resource page on our website to include links for prayer, reliable information about COVID-19, and support for clergy and lay mental health.

BUT WHAT ABOUT EASTER?

The word "quarantine" comes from quaresima, the Italian word for Lent. Ships were "quarantined" for 40 days in port before they were able to dock and unload people and supplies. So of all seasons of the year to be experiencing quarantines, this is very appropriate. Just as Lent ends with Easter, so this season of quarantine will end with renewed faith in our Risen Lord-though it will likely not happen by April 12, 2020. Over the next few weeks, as the situation develops, we will discern what the right way to observe calendar Easter is; and what the right way to observe our eventual return to congregational life, proclaiming "Alleluia" with shouts of joy. That day will be an Easter Day indeed, celebrating the restoration of new life, having passed through the valley of the shadow of death.

I will be in contact with you as things change and develop; know that you are in my prayers: congregations, clergy, laypeople, and all those whom you serve.

May God's peace be with you in the coming days.

 

Yours in Christ,

+Jennifer

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall

Sixth Bishop of Arizona

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