Dear faithful parishioners of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church,
Glory to Jesus Christ! Slava Isusu Christu!
It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you all that His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek, in consultation with the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, has decide that at least through the end of March, ALL services, activities, social gatherings, in-person confessions (except Last Rites), non-essential Communion visits, etc. are to be suspended. We will hear more about April as that approaches.
However, we have been blessed to have the parish church open on Saturday afternoons from 1 to 4 PM for those of the faithful who would like to come and privately pray or light a candle. Despite this opportunity, it is imperative that people in high-risk categories (e.g., senior citizens, individuals with on-going health problems, and/or people not feeling well currently) should strongly consider remaining at home. The faithful are reminded to maintain “social distancing” during this visit and avoid interacting with large numbers of people, as well as sanitizing themselves and the icons they kiss both before and after touching/venerating them. Additionally, I will be lighting candles for anyone who requests them, and will be lighting our regular vigil request on Sunday mornings. Please call me if you need to talk about any issue at all, even if you are simply feeling lonely and isolated.
The two exceptions to the above suspension of services are funerals and baptisms, limited to immediate family members, which may be held if and only if approved of by the Archdiocesan Chancellor and blessed by His Eminence.
Please know that these “radical” decisions were only decided upon by His Eminence after much prayer, dialogue with the other members of the Holy Synod, consultation with medical professionals, and conversations at length with his Chancellor. These were NOT decided upon “lightly,” but in the end seemed absolutely necessary. We must work together as Christ's people to stop the rapid transmission of this unprecedented health threat; we must eliminate the spread NOW to avoid a massive - and deadly - spread later. His Eminence also stated that out of “something bad, perhaps something good can come about” - - this period of limited interaction “opens the window of opportunity” to individually “plunge” into the quiet depths of Holy Lent by increased personal prayer, Bible study, and time with the myriad of “good” Orthodox materials available through the internet and our Orthodox bookstores. Let us use self-discipline to make this occur throughout the Archdiocese!
More details, as well as ways to stay connected to our parish and to more fully live our life of prayer, will be including in a forthcoming email. I hope to have it out by tomorrow.
Yours in Christ, with thanks and love,
Fr. John Joseph Kotalik
St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church
601 Boone Avenue, Canonsburg, Penna. 15317
Rectory: 724-745-8216 | Cell: 425-503-2891