As a follow up to my email last night, I want to further clarify a few things for us all. This is an ever-changing situation and we are committed to communicating with you clearly and effectively.
As of today, the diocesan office staff will be working remotely from home. Someone will be in the office daily to check mail, etc.; however, we will not be open to visitors. All staff will be accessible through email, the office lines and our cell phones. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us, whatever your need. We are also planning to maintain our weekly staff meeting via Zoom. So, be on the lookout on Tuesdays for communication from us. We are going to try not to inundate you with emails throughout the week. However, you will continue to hear from us through the website and other social media outlets. Daily prayers will be posted each evening at 8:00pm.
Along these lines, I encourage churches to cancel in-person meetings, mid-week services and other on-campus gatherings, effective immediately. One area of question surrounds AA groups. Some churches have decided to keep their doors open to these groups. However, clear sanitation guidelines, social distancing and group size must be maintained.
I have received questions about food pantries and other feedings programs. If you decide to continue these, practice scrupulous sanitizing methods. No one over 60 years of age should participate in these efforts. Also, be sure to maintain the under 10 person guidelines recently released by the CDC. Food can be packaged and handed out with appropriate physical distancing.
Funerals. Memorial services should not be conducted and if it is possible to wait to inter an individual at a later date, that is preferable. However, we are the church and we will continue to bury our dead. So, if there is no other option, services should be limited in scope (graveside, for example) and size (immediate family only).
There is a great deal of creative information surrounding ways to remain connected to each other. This is a wonderful time to send handwritten notes, make phone calls and establish prayer partners. Zoom or similar platforms are also very effective. I also encourage you to continue to financially support the church and other organizations that help the most vulnerable at this time.
Find ways to be present, loving and supportive to each other, even if not in physical proximity. I trust you to use good judgment as you confront the many questions that this situation has brought to the forefront. Pray for me and for each other. We may be apart but we are never alone.
The Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson, Jr,
Bishop of Louisiana