TO: ARCHDIOCESE OF PGH AND W PA (OCA) CLERGY / LAITY
FROM: ARCHPRIEST WILLIAM J. EVANSKY, CHANCELLOR
SUBJECT: CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE UPDATE
Glory to Jesus Christ!
In an email sent to you on March 3, I’d discussed the situation concerning the COVID-19 issue and stated that further updates would be forwarded as needed - - this email is such an update. This email is being sent after discussions between His Eminence and me in addition to consultations with other OCA hierarchs and chancellors. Also, the archbishop and I were part of a meeting mid-week with numerous Pittsburgh area non-Orthodox Christian bishops/diocesan executives in a meeting of Christian Associates of W PA at which time health department and governmental information was discussed at length as well as comparing the responses implemented among the various denominations locally.
* First, attached to this email is the latest Archpastoral letter issued by the Holy Synod of the OCA concerning this situation issued today. His Eminence, as a member of the Holy Synod, (obviously) endorses the content of this letter - including the liturgical petitions included.
* Additionally, His Eminence reminds that no case of Coronavirus has been officially diagnosed in any county included within the boundaries of our diocese so he urges that we maintain as much local “operational continuity” within each parish as possible after a thorough review of the local situation. However, prudent hierarchal actions seem wise in light of the developments announced locally by our governmental and health officials as well as after noting the actions taken locally by many universities, sports venues, and other public events to avoid unnecessary risk. Therefore, all deanery-level and diocesan-level services and activities scheduled for Holy Lent 2020 are cancelled effective immediately.
Please also note the following specific items for your consideration locally by our hierarch:
* Some of our diocesan parishes have already notified me as chancellor that they are proceeding with normal liturgical schedules but have curtailed non-liturgical events such as coffee hours, fundraisers, church school classes, group studies, etc. While not every parish may decide to take that level of action, every parish SHOULD be exercising a high degree of caution to ensure proper hygiene procedures are followed to avoid risk - - such things as extra cleaning of kitchen/serving utensils, wearing of latex gloves by workers coming in contact with food in any way, increased cleaning of door knobs, tables, and rest rooms, providing hand-sanitizers (if possible to find them!), providing tissue boxes, etc.
* His Eminence finds it acceptable that the members of parishes be informed that bowing before icons and the priest-held blessing cross instead of kissing those articles is acceptable for the time-being. They should also be assured that maximum effort is being taken to frequently clean all the liturgical articles in the church - - and please do so! (It has also been suggested in other dioceses that some form of sanitizer be placed near each icon to use before the icon venerated ... although you may not have that as a good option.)
* As stated in my previous email, please remind the people again to please stay home if exhibiting symptoms of illness.
* Instead of partaking in a shared “zapivka” cup, individual cups may be used (if not already the parish practice which is quite common in this diocese). Elimination of the “zapivka” is also acceptable temporarily if that option is chosen.
* Consideration of revising how the antidoron bread is distributed at Liturgy should be discussed.
* Due to the extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves, it is acceptable for the time-being that, when receiving Holy Communion, the faithful may hold the head back, open the mouth wide, receive the Eucharist, and close the mouth after the spoon is withdrawn. It is not required to kiss the chalice or the priest’s hand for the time-being. (Please stress, however, to the faithful, the last paragraph of the Holy Synod’s letter concerning the “efficacy” of the Holy Eucharist as an “article of faith.”)
* Any parish priest showing symptoms of illness must contact the chancellor and dean immediately. Every effort will be made to provide a substitute priest/deacon for that parish until such a time as that priest can resume normal pastoral duties.
It is realized that some may consider these actions “extraordinary” - - perhaps they are! But extraordinary actions are required during extraordinary times! May our faith in Jesus Christ and His Holy Church sustain us during these confusing times.
Please use whatever means you find possible to share this email and attachment. Further updates will be sent in response to any change in the local COVID-19 situation. As always, all are free to contact me privately with concerns/questions. Thank you.
In Christ, Fr. Bill
Archpriest William J. Evansky
Archdiocese of PGH and W PA (OCA)
Chancery Office: 724-776-5555
Ambridge Parish Office: 724-266-5009