"My Brothers and Sisters of Church of the Epiphany,
We are living in very distressing times when it is too easy to fall into despair. I would like to offer you hope and a reminder of the many wondrous deeds that our Lord has done through us in the midst of the world’s pain and suffering. As we reflect on our accomplishments and blessings over the past few months, let us thank God for guiding our footsteps and find comfort and hope in the knowledge that He will continue to guide us through this crisis.
Social distancing has required us to find creative new ways of engaging in Christian Formation here at Epiphany. Formation programs for people of all ages have been adapted to virtual formats. Newcomers continue to discover the beauty of our Catholic faith through RCIA sessions on Zoom. Various adult bible study or prayer groups, including several Cursillo groups, are also making good use of video conferencing tools. Our youth ministry has remained active on Zoom and Instagram with virtual Life Nights, a scripture study program, and regular middle and high school youth groups. Despite the current limitations, we continue to help people in various stages of their faith journeys grow in knowledge and love for Jesus Christ.
We have also found creative new ways to maintain Community Life among our parishioners. Many of you have driven by the homes of friends to wave, say hello, and cheer them up if they are feeling alone. Our parishioners came together as a community in a wonderful way to show your love and support for me and my fellow Epiphany clergy with a beautiful parade through our parking lot. I was so very moved by your kind words, letters, and cards, as well as the posters and decorations on your cars as you drove by. You also sent us many lovely photos of your families to “Populate the Pews”. What a pleasure it was to see all of your smiling faces in the pews- a community gathered together symbolically and spiritually, even when could not be physically together at Mass.
Our very first livestreamed Mass on Facebook took place on Wednesday, March 25 as we celebrated the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. I celebrated that Mass in an empty sanctuary with only one person physically present- a staff member who was filming and streaming the Mass using her cellular phone on a small, borrowed tripod. We were all a bit nervous, but the Holy Spirit guided us through it. Since then we have all learned new skills. Staff members learned how to resolve problems with sound and picture quality and overcome internet connectivity issues. Parishioners have learned how to find and watch our online liturgies and share them with others. Members of our Epiphany community who saw the need for a better livestream system and generously gave their time, talent, and treasure to set up new equipment and hardware and teach our staff how to use it. Thanks to them, we now have a much stronger system which provides a much more pleasant experience for those watching our Masses at home. We have also installed a direct internet connection for our livestream system to prevent the loss of connection in the middle of filming. These wonderful blessings have enabled us to continue livestreaming Mass for those who cannot yet join us here at church. How wonderful it is to know that, with the help of some new ideas and tools, even viruses and social distancing restrictions cannot stop our parish from worshiping and praying together as one Body of Christ!
The spirit of Outreach at the Church of the Epiphany has remained strong during this time of crisis. Parishioners continue to prepare and deliver meals for the Salvation Army 5 times each month. Our Praying Hands ministry continues to make and deliver prayer shawls to the sick, elderly, and confined. Many Epiphany ministries, Cursillo prayer groups, etc. have come together to help those in need. Members of the Facilities and Repair Technicians group furnished a CARITAS apartment, and the G.I.F.T.S women’s group collected diapers, baby wipes, and infant clothing for the adoption unit at Commonwealth Catholic Charities. Our prison ministry members have been writing letters to the men at State Farm Correctional Center while visits have been suspended during the pandemic.
In a special way, our parish has worked together to bring God’s mercy to the sick and the homebound in this period of isolation. Many of you have made arrangements to pick up groceries for elderly neighbors. Epiphany volunteers have contacted over 1,300 of their fellow parishioners to see how they are doing, find out if there is any way our parish might help them, and simply listen to those who need a friend to talk to. At our blood drive in May, 31 people donated blood to the American Red Cross to save lives during this critical health crisis.
Our parishioners have sewn face masks and donated them to our parish and to other local organizations in our community. Some have even sent masks to other cities such as New York that are experiencing terrible suffering due to the virus. It is deeply moving to see how the incredible amount of groceries, gift cards, and more you have brought here to church during our drive-thru donation days. Pile after pile of these life-changing donations have been delivered to the Sacred Heart Center, Bainbridge Community Ministry, Saint Francis Home, and the Chesterfield Food Bank. You baked, delivered, and served spaghetti dinners to the homeless in Richmond. Our Epiphany community purchased tray tables so residents at Saint Francis Home can eat safe, socially distanced meals in their homes, and helped furnish apartments at the new CARITAS facility. Of course, let us not forget the power of prayer. As Saint Peter tells us in Acts 2: 21, “everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord”. When public Masses were suspended, our parish community called upon the Lord and formed a prayer chain. You sent us numerous prayer intentions and names of those in need of prayer. We printed them on slips of paper and linked them together to “populate the pews with prayers and petitions”. The chain stretched across the pews- uniting us all in love and prayer for our brothers and sisters.
It is said that the true spirit of a person comes out in moments of crisis. Our Epiphany family has proved this. There has been such a powerful outpouring of love, kindness, and charity from our parishioners. Our church has been a real beacon of hope in the community. We are so grateful for your generosity. God’s plan for the future remains hidden from our sight, but we are cautiously optimistic that together we shall get through these tough times and come out stronger than before!
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father” 1 Thessalonians 1: 2-3
May the Lord bless you today and always. I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Very Rev. John C. Kazibwe, Pastor"