Monday, March 23, 2020

Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order - A Letter from Bishop Jake Owensby

Note: This letter was sent to the Clergy, Churches, and Missions of the Diocese of Western Lousiana on March 22 - The Fourth Sunday in Lent. 

Dear Friends,

Most of you are probably aware of the Governor’s stay-at-home order. And perhaps you also heard that at once point our state was leading the world in per capita infection rate. The moral and practical imperative to act swiftly and decisively to flatten the curve could not be clearer. So, I am sending this email as a pastoral direction to you all to comply with the Governor’s order and to urge your people to do the same.

Here are some specifics affecting our congregations:

1. All worship services are to be suspended through Easter with the understanding that a further extension of this suspension is possible. This includes weddings. Funerals should be small (ten or less), private family services without Eucharist and maintaining social distancing.  If postponing the service is pastorally feasible, then do so. A larger Requiem Mass or Memorial Service may be planned for when measures can be prudently eased.

2. If not already doing so, church staff should work from home and all meetings should be held virtually.

3. Continue to check on your people via telephone or virtually.

4. Make virtual worship available by offering it yourself or by directing people to my Morning Prayer Live (via FB) Sundays at 10:00 a.m. My services are also posted for later viewing.

5. Seek to continue classes, book groups, etc. virtually. This may require some coaching of lay leaders on your part. Share with your people that I offer a daily Live Meditation at 3:00 p.m. during the workweek. Again, these meditations are posted for later viewing as well.

While current circumstances make these measures prudent, I’m sure that you join me in disappointment. Forgoing Eucharist on Sunday is unthinkable under normal circumstances. Being unable to gather in our church buildings for Holy Week and Easter is more than disappointing. It is a deep loss. Nevertheless, I am confident that the Spirit will lead us to be the Church in worship in powerful, innovative, creative ways. 

Take care of yourselves. Let’s all be there for each other. And don’t hesitate to reach out to me and to colleagues for help, solace, a friendly ear, or a much-needed laugh.

Thank you for being the loving pastors that you are. You inspire me. God bless you.


The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.D., DD
Bishop of The Episcopal Church in Western Louisiana
P. O. Box 4330
Pineville, LA 71361