Dear friends in Christ –

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills; from whence cometh my help?
My help cometh even from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; and he that keepeth thee will not sleep.” – Psalm 121

Who could have foreseen six months ago how this year would unfold? Between the unexpected departure of our Rector, the shuttering of the campus due to the unchecked spread of a severe disease, and the most severe meteorological event to ever affect the Chapel, this has been a year of adversity for us all. Combined with the winds of change now sweeping across our Republic, old assumptions are being challenged constantly, and things that seemed as if they would abide forever have been sent crashing to the ground, as the century-old oaks in our cemetery.

Reopening Plans
Your Vestry and Wardens fully understand how tempting it is to re-open the Chapel to in-person worship, and resume a sense of normalcy in the midst of the pandemic. Despite the county moving to a “green” phase, the Vestry, with the support of the Diocese, has felt it necessary for the safety and well-being of the entire congregation to be extremely cautious in resuming gatherings at the Chapel. We simply do not want to risk any member of the Chapel community falling ill with COVID-19, particularly given the potentially fatal nature of the virus. Additionally, the Diocese itself has continued to operate under a yellow phase.

We will resume public worship as soon as it is safe to do so, with the guidance of Bishop Gutierrez and the reason and skill with which God has blessed us, and taking into account our location, our unique architecture, and our limited seating capacity. In the meantime, we encourage parishioners to contact the Vestry or the Reopening Task Force directly should they have questions or concerns. We also plan to initiate live-streaming worship from the sanctuary itself very soon, and encourage you to be on the lookout for this information. It is our hope that although we may not all be able to gather together in the Chapel, being able to view our beautiful worship space virtually may bring you some comfort and peace during the coming weeks and months.

Finance Update
With churches across the country being forced to restrict in-person gatherings, this has undoubtedly created financial burdens – and the Chapel is not immune to this. We are very grateful to the congregation for their ongoing pledge support, which combined with investment dividends and burials/lot sales has helped sustain us so far.

We also applied for and were fortunate to receive funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to cover the cost of payroll and utilities. This loan was used for 2.5 months of payroll including medical and pension benefits for our staff, all of whom have worked tirelessly to support the Chapel during this period. Additionally utilities, kept to a minimum by property oversight, were covered for 2.5 months. We have now depleted the loan balance, and will be relying solely upon operating revenue going forward. Some of our revenue streams continued to be severely limited given the status of the pandemic.

Severe storms in recent weeks have also added an additional layer of complexity to our financial picture, with assessments still being undertaken to determine the cost of repairs to both the Churchyard from the June 1 ‘derecho’ storm, and water damage to the Bishop White library/roof from recent heavy rains. We are exceedingly thankful for a generous donation from a parishioner to help with the cemetery damage, but expect additional costs to be incurred. We pray that with our congregational support, we can continue to ensure the Chapel is on strong financial footing, despite the uncertain times ahead.

Rector Search
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Discernment Committee has continued to move forward with the search for our next Rector. Thanks to Zoom, the committee has been able to meet frequently, and has begun to review applicants. The committee is currently preparing for Zoom interviews which will begin in earnest within the next couple of weeks. Please continue to keep the Discernment committee and candidates in your prayers as this important process moves ahead.

Communication with Vestry
As your Vestry, we are committed to keeping an open dialogue with our congregants. Should you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns – we encourage you to reach out to a Vestry member or Warden directly. Our contact information can be found in the Parish Directory. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to meet (via Zoom and teleconference) on a regular basis – even adjusting the cadence of our meetings from monthly to weekly for an extended period as we dealt with many difficult decisions. Our dedicated staff members also joined our calls, enabling us to keep the Chapel active in our ministry, despite physical distance.

In closing, we encourage everyone to remember this text, from a hymn for All Saints Day:

These are they whose hearts were riven,
Sore with woe and anguish tried,
Who in pray’r full oft have striven
With the God they glorified;
Now, their painful conflict o’er,
God has bid them weep no more.

For the Saints of God are in our midst, even today. Let us therefore pattern our lives after their good example, that we may pass through this period of strife strengthened to face the days to come.

Yours, in Christ –
Your Parish Vestry

Washington Memorial Chapel