March 15, 2020, 12:25 PM

Dear St. John’s Members and Friends,


In keeping with messaging from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Bishop Larry Benfield has urged all Episcopal congregations in the Diocese of Arkansas to not hold worship services or other church related meetings until at least the end of March. This is, of course, being done to help control the spread of the Coronavirus. I met with Sr. Warden Mike Fielder and Jr. Warden Jane Hornor Saturday morning. We are in agreement that all meetings, including Sunday Morning worship, Monday Evening Prayer and Wednesday Evening Eucharist and Soup Suppers will be cancelled through the end of March. This includes the vestry meeting scheduled for March 16.


I, along with Marjie and Tony, will be keeping regular office hours at the church. I will continue to be available for pastoral care emergencies but will be suspending visits to sick and homebound parishoners for the next few weeks.


I encourage everyone to read the attached communication from Bishop Benfield. Please keep in mind that we do not cease to be the church when we cannot gather on Sunday morning. Our common life in Christ continues as always and I encourage you to keep your church family and our broader community in your prayers. Bishop Benfield’s email includes several suggestions for virtual worship for those with computers.

I will be sending out updated information as needed.




Fr. Ray




­­­­­An Update from Bishop Benfield

All Congregations Urged Not to Meet

Each day public health authorities are either mandating or urging additional steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In many jurisdictions, large gatherings, including church services, have now been prohibited. So far that sort of prohibition is not the case in Arkansas. It is apparent, though, that people want appropriate actions taken to ensure that as many people as possible remain healthy.

On Thursday I strongly urged Episcopal congregations in central Arkansas to institute virtual worship until March 31 rather than gathering physically in church buildings. After reports from other parts of the state, I am now strongly encouraging ALL Episcopal congregations in Arkansas to participate in virtual worship until March 31 rather than physically gathering.

One way to worship is for anyone with internet access to join one of the congregations that offer live streaming. (By the way, St. Andrew’s in Marianna has been offering a digitally focused liturgy for years). A list of the congregations that I know of that offer some sort of digital worship is at the end of this message. A second way to worship could be for the clergy or lay leaders to offer prayers (such as Morning Prayer) in church at the regularly scheduled time, while encouraging parishioners to say their prayers in their homes at the same time. Or you may think of another creative response. These are all ways that we can still be a part of supportive Christian communities in this challenging time in which we need one another more than ever, but may not able to be with one another physically.

As I go about my daily life this week, I see much fear: fear of illness, fear of others, fear that there will not be enough of whatever it is that we think we need. In response, I am reminded of what we read in the first letter of John: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). What the writer is telling us is that where there is fear, we will act lovingly so that fear can be overcome. I encourage you to take loving, thoughtful actions in the coming days and weeks that recognize the needs of others; doing so will help overcome the fear that so many people now have. It is an important way to live out our Christian lives.

Faithfully yours,

Larry Benfield

Here are some links to online services and sermons: