Yesterday, DioVA announced that it is suspending all live-streaming from church buildings and shutting church offices except on the basis of unavoidable need. The move, while morally sound, is likely to spell further trouble for Grace Church and other parishes facing challenges.
My hunch is that the diocese’s willingness to address the matter from an ethical perspective doesn’t reflect any new found organizational integrity. Rather, I believe it’s driven largely by bishop Susan Goff’s recent cancer diagnosis and the advice of her physicians, who would undoubtedly tell her she is in a very high risk category during the pandemic due to age and the immunosuppresssive effects of both cancer and radiation treatment.
Could the diocese finally be placing integrity over organizational survival? Perhaps, but its dismal track record on such things would make this a startling outcome. I mean, the whole unwillingness to even investigate Bob Malm’s perjury suggests a church every bit as corrupt as the Catholic church, and in some ways even more so.
Meanwhile, the diocese is in communication with parishes in transition, to see whether they wish to move forward or not. Those fairly far along likely will finish the process, but Grace and others just starting down that road probably will pull the plug. After all, what is left of the parish after the pandemic, including liturgical practices, may look very different. And the reality is that the aging demographics of The Episcopal Church means that it will be particularly hard hit, both in terms of the death of members and the inability of members, faced with a sharp recession, to maintain support for the parish.
Of course, in all of this, the question arises: If clergy are “working from home,” what exactly do they do? Yes, they can be in touch with parishioners by phone, and they can offer prayers for the dying via Skype. But it all sounds very much like Bob Malm “working from home” when his mother had cancer, Yes, some emails got answered and phone calls made, but my sense is that most of what got accomplished was playing golf—and a lot of it, at that.
So, with no live services, and no streaming services from churches for the foreseeeable future, why is Grace spending more than $220,000 a year on the building?
It’s a tough question to answer. And having no vision for the future does not make things any easier.