Tuesday, March 17, 2020

UOC-USA issues new directives


March 16, 2020



Dearly Beloved Brothers and Sisters in our Lord:


As your hierarchs, deeply concerned primarily about your spiritual well-being, but also greatly anxious about your physical and emotional health, we have been monitoring on a nearly 24-hour basis all the news, comments and recommendations of the scientists from the Center for Disease and Prevention Control and the National Institute of Health about the Coronavirus. When we say on a 24-hour basis, we are not exaggerating because we have been spending many sleepless nights praying for and worrying about you, while trying to decipher the constant stream of information being provided about the virus, and to determine what our best course of action should be with regards to liturgical gatherings in our parish communities. We believe that it is absolutely necessary for you, along with us, to become fully informed about the Coronavirus or COVID-19 because the simple fact is that it is considered to be perhaps the greatest threat to humankind ever. We need to act in response to the threat and this letter comes as the direct result of our mutual discernment and prayer.

Recently, we issued “Further Directives” to you, our clergy, and through the clergy to you, the faithful, concerning the necessity of the cleanliness and sanitization of our Church buildings and all the liturgical utensils utilized during any of our worship services. We especially concentrated on the responsibilities of the parish priests in this regard, on both personal and parochial levels. These directives remain in place. HOWEVER, BECAUSE OF THE VERY RAPIDLY FORTHCOMING INFORMATION ABOUT THE PANDEMIC AND A MORE POWERFUL WARNINGS AGAINST PHYSICAL PROXIMITY BETWEEN PEOPLE, WE MUST NOW CHANGE OUR DIRECTIVES AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO YOU. WE DO SO, NOT OUT OF A SENSE OF PANIC OR FEAR, BUT RATHER FROM A LOVING CONCERN FOR YOU. THEREFORE:

1. We direct that ALL liturgical worship services in our parish communities, except for Sunday Divine Liturgy, must be suspended until further notice.We direct all our beloved and devoted clergy to celebrate Divine Liturgy every Sunday morning, without a choir, but with the participation of at least a reader or cantor. The Eucharist MUST be offered “in behalf of all and for all” during this horrific crisis. We will not close the doors of our parish churches in the face of our faithful who wish to participate in the Liturgy but the restrictions of remaining at least six feet apart must be followed as per regulations set by federal, state and local governments and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, we do direct that ALL our faithful over the age of 65 completely refrain from visiting their parish churches because they are the most vulnerable and susceptible to the pandemic virus. Further, regarding all other faithful, we can no longer recommend that “those who exhibit no symptoms continue to gather for services”. THE RISK OF INDIVIDUAL “SELF-DETERMINATION” OF ILLNESS OR SYMPTOMS OF THE VIRUS, A FLU OR SIMPLY A COLD – INCLUDING YOUR OWN HIERARCHS – ARE SIMPLY NOT ACCURATE IN TOO MANY INSTANCES. We have canceled all our own scheduled parish visitations throughout this pandemic crisis, so that no obligation is perceived by the faithful to be present to welcome their hierarchs.

2. We realize that many of our faithful are very concerned about not being able to regularly receive the Holy Eucharist – the Body and Blood of our Lord – in Holy Communion. We must never doubt the Compassion of our Lord, which exceeds anything we humans can comprehend, concerning such crisis circumstances as the present. We certainly will not suffer spiritually from a forced absence from community worship and the Eucharist, whatever the length of the crisis. Please stay home and self-quarantine for your own protection and that of others.

3. As we previously stated, our clergy, our Spiritual Fathers, must continue to be most attentive to what you see in the lives of your faithful sons and daughters. Be present to them! Be ready to visit them with the Sacraments when necessary but take all precautions when doing so in order to protect both yourself and those spiritual children. We continue to strongly urge that you do, indeed, FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE CDC GUIDELINES (www.cdc.gov), SO THAT YOU CAN EDUCATE YOUR FAITHFUL ABOUT THEM.

We are saddened at the need to issue these directives to you, dear Brothers and Sisters. It seems to be so incredibly contradictory and counter intuitive to all we are and all we have ever done in our Spiritual Guidance of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora. In decades, centuries and millennia past the speed of communication and the provision of information about such horrific dangers as the present Pandemic of Coronavirus/COVID-19 would have remained unknown until years and years after they ended. Perhaps it is a blessing gifted to us by God in the Holy Trinity to comprehend that with which we are confronted today. May we all do what we can to avoid being infected with the virus and just as important to avoid being conduits through which it is spread by close contact with others. We are social beings and we need each other, but those needs must these days be satisfied through impersonal contact by telephone, video-conferencing and other safe means. We cannot in good conscience recommend heavy reliance upon the most prominent versions of social media because of some pretty indecent, inaccurate and deceiving things we have seen there. However, we are aware of some possibilities of our parishes live-streaming services there. Please refer to your parish or neighboring parishes to determine which are doing so.

Throughout all this time of threat, illness, concern and anxiety let us remain faithful witnesses of God’s LOVE and COMPASSION for us. Let us in all circumstances pray for His embrace of all humanity. Let us beseech the Mother of God for her protection and that she will intercede with her Son and our God beseeching His healing touch on all our lives. Let us contemplate the two new and greatest commandments of all: “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

Loving God and loving our neighbor are one and the same. We are not instructed to “love our neighbor as yourself” in terms of what we see in the mirror or whatever self-concept we have. We are called to love our neighbor as also being created “in the image of God”, reflecting that image to the world just as we must do every second of our lives. If we love our neighbor, then ours is to protect our neighbor during the times of threat such as today. That means we must refrain from the physical contact through which a virus can be transmitted.

We fervently pray for you all every day of our lives, our dear clergy and faithful – witnesses to God. Please pray for our continued understanding of what it is that we must do to help ensure your safety and that of the world’s. May the Grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. “The Father is our Hope, the Son is our Refuge and the Holy Spirit is our Protection.” We embrace you in the certainty of all this…

By the Grace of God, Metropolitan
By the Grace of God, Archbishop
By the Grace of God, Archbishop


  1. "We certainly will not suffer spiritually from a forced absence from community worship and the Eucharist, whatever the length of the crisis."


    1. I had to google "SMH"...so much social media shorthand these days. I interpret this statement in a different light - there is no "theological" reason why God will can not fill in for the spiritual ssustance of this or that Sacrament and/or our routines of piety. There is a time for everything, including a extraordinary times and the effect they have. Indeed, these times provedentially can be just as "good" as "bad" for the spiritual state of any individual.

      Not sure what do with a statement like "... COVID-19 because the simple fact is that it is considered to be perhaps the greatest threat to humankind ever..." Perhaps it will prove to be the "greatest" threat after all the unforseen consequences (e.g. a real collapse of economy/society)??

      This directive obviously has some haste baked into it...