JUNE 10, 2020
New Directives and Special Rubrics for Celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and Marriage
On June 10, 2020 the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago made the following statement:
As the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago continues to reunite the faithful with their parish homes, it is taking steps to ensure that this reunion is grounded in the sacramental life of the Church. In line with the May 31 statement regarding the Sacraments of Holy Unction and Confession, the Metropolis of Chicago has offered its clergy directives and special rubrics for celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and Marriage. Effective immediately, provided that parishes adhere to Orders and Directives as set forth by the Metropolis of Chicago and by local authorities, the clergy are able to offer these sacraments of initiation and matrimony.
Commenting on this important development, His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago stated: “By resuming the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and Marriage, our people are now able to fully participate in the sacramental life of the Church. I am truly grateful to the members of the Metropolis Liturgical Committee, the Metropolis Chancellor, our regional Vicars, and the entire clergy brotherhood. Through their efforts and cooperation, our infants, children and catechumens can be joined to Christ, and our couples can be joined to each other in Christ.”
Joint Statement Regarding Holy Trinity's Bankruptcy Proceedings
On Monday, June 8, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Chicago and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago made the following statement:
With great joy, we announce the beginning of a new day for Holy Trinity. With the bank’s agreement to release the claims against the parish, Holy Trinity’s bankruptcy petition is resolved. The parish’s bankruptcy proceedings now are closed and a painful chapter in the life of the parish and the Metropolis ends.
This day would not have been possible without the tireless and devoted work of the Interim Parish Council, generous charitable donors, numerous volunteers offering countless hours of pro-bono services, and the clergy of the Metropolis. We are forever grateful to these servant leaders who supported and guided the parish through its bleakest moments. We are also grateful to the 47 stewards of the parish, whose faith in the future of Holy Trinity remained steadfast throughout the parish’s struggles.
Though this moment calls for joy, it also requires resolve. The revitalization of Holy Trinity demands great work from its parishioners and from the faithful near and far. Foremost among its many priorities, Holy Trinity plans to accelerate its stewardship efforts and begin a search for a new parish home. In the meantime, the parish will remain under the pastoral and spiritual care of Fr. Chrysanthos Kerkeres, the Administrative Proistamenos, and Fr. Dean Photos, the Pastoral and Liturgical Proistamenos.
Today, Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of the Holy Spirit. It is altogether appropriate that Holy Trinity’s new day coincides with the parish’s Name Day celebration. As we look to the future with gratitude, hope, and humility, we pray that the joy, gift and grace of the Holy Spirit will continue to guide the Holy Trinity parish.
Please visit the parish website and consider making a donation to the Holy Trinity Revitalization Fund.
About Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church was founded in 1897 and is one of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in the Midwest. Temporarily offering services at its Holy Transfiguration Chapel in River Grove, continuing to serve the Greek Orthodox faithful on the Chicago’s northwest side. For more information, visit www.holytrinitychicago.com.
June 4, 2020
The Divine Liturgy
The Divine Liturgy has been celebrated during the COVID19 pandemic throughout our Holy Metropolis. We have gained much experience during the last few months; the lessons learned will help us continue to establish and refine our liturgical practices during this pandemic.
In an effort to mitigate the risk of infection, the Metropolis offers these special directives and liturgical rubrics for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. They are to be used in conjunction with other Metropolis Directives (chicago.goarch.org/reopening-parishes) and special Orders and Directives issued by local authorities. As the current landscape evolves, or as better practices are developed, the Metropolis will make necessary adjustments to its directives.
Certain liturgical practices and customs are temporarily suspended or changed. The manner in which the Holy Eucharist is distributed, however, will not change. Even if special requests are made by the faithful, the clergy may not adopt practices that are in place in other local Orthodox Churches, Metropolises, Dioceses, or Assembly of Bishops Jurisdictions. Clergy are also not permitted to develop their own unique methods of distributing Holy Communion. The clergy are expected to remain patient with those who are afraid or feel apprehensive about receiving Holy Communion during this pandemic; they are to help quell efforts that view participation in the Eucharist the “litmus test” of one’s faith; they are to shepherd and slowly teach the faithful that the Life-giving Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ never leads to one’s sickness or death.
A. General Instructions
1. Concelebrations: Unless social distancing can be practiced, it is recommended that concelebrations be avoided.
2. Simultaneous Liturgies: In an effort to increase the number of people participating in the Divine Liturgy, parishes with two or more priests may celebrate simultaneous liturgies, however the following conditions must be followed in both services:
a. The total number of participants for each liturgy cannot exceed totals permitted by the Metropolis and the local authorities.
b. At least one Divine Liturgy must take place in the main church of the parish; the second liturgy may be celebrated in another space within the parish (e.g. chapel, parish fellowship hall).
c. Each liturgical space must have a separate entryway.
d. The parish must maintain a record of all participants in both liturgies.
e. The faithful must be notified in advance which service they are to attend; they may not switch which liturgy they attend.
f. Prescribed safety measures, including social distancing and the covering of the nose and mouth, must be followed in both services.
3. Multiple Liturgies in a Single Day: Because the number of people who can attend any given service is still limited by local authorities, the Metropolis will consider requests by clergy to celebrate the Divine Liturgy twice per day. A priest must submit a written request that outlines the parish conditions that necessitate a temporary shift in the Church’s liturgical tradition. After Metropolis review, if a priest is granted permission to celebrate the Divine Liturgy twice on the same day, he will receive additional instructions that he must follow.
B. Special Safety Instructions
1. Disinfecting Hands: Clergy and laity must disinfect their hands prior to the start of the Divine Liturgy and at various times during the service.
2. Disinfecting Vessels and Objects: All vessels, tables, and liturgical items must be disinfected before the start of the Divine Liturgy and at its conclusion.
3. Covering of the nose and mouth:
a. The laity, including those in the pews and the support staff (e.g. acolytes, ushers, parish council members, sextons, etc.) must wear a facemask or similar covering of the mouth and nose at all times.
b. The face covering must be removed when receiving Holy Communion.
c. The clergy are expected to cover their nose and mouth when they come in close proximity to others. This includes, but is not limited to, offering Holy Communion to the faithful.
d. Sextons and altar servers must disinfect their hands before and after handing or receiving any object.
e. Clergy must disinfect their hands before and after handing or receiving any object.
4. Protection of the eyes: Clergy are strongly encouraged to wear protective eyewear when they come in close proximity with others, including while distributing Holy Communion. While a “face shield” is not required, protective eyewear ought to be used.
C. Liturgical Rubrics
a. On Sundays, the Gospel should not be brought out to be venerated or placed in the Narthex.
b. Censing: To help maintain social distancing, the priest should not follow the normal censing patterns when people are seated in the pews or standing in the narthex. He may cense the altar and the iconostasis as normal, but he should cense the people from the center of the solea.
2. Small and Great Entrances: To help maintain social distancing, normal patterns for entrances should not be followed; all entrances should be performed only on the solea with minimal participation by acolytes and sextons.
3. Reading of the Holy Gospel: The Holy Gospel should be read from the Beautiful Doors (aka Royal Doors) and not from the pulpit. Acolytes should stay at least 6-feet away from the priest and each other.
4. Blessing after the Epistle Reading: The readers must not approach the priest for his blessing. The priest may bless them from a distance.
5. Distribution of the Holy Eucharist:
a. The Eucharist will be distributed to the faithful in the normal manner. Clergy MAY NOT adopt other practices.
b. Priests MUST cover their nose and mouth while distributing the Holy Eucharist; they are also strongly encouraged to use protective eyewear.
c. Priests MUST use a clean and unused communion cloth for every celebration of the Divine Liturgy. An ample supply of clean communion cloths should be available in the altar.
1. The faithful should sanitize their hands as they approach the chalice and refrain from touching the communion cloth
2. The acolyte assisting with Holy Communion, should help ensure that the faithful do not use the cloth to blot their lips after receiving Holy Communion.
3. If, at any time during the distribution of the Holy Eucharist, the priest feels that the communion cloth is no longer clean, he should immediately replace it with a clean cloth.
6. Antidoron may not be offered at this time. The Metropolis liturgical committee will continue to consider ways to safely distribute antidoron.
Offerings Brought to the Church
As a general rule, a parish should secure for itself the prosforon, arto, kolyva, wine and oil needed for a service. If parishioners wish to make such offerings, the following protocol must be followed:
1. Kolyva: If a parishioner brings a plate of koliva for a memorial service, s/he must maintain possession of the plate throughout the duration of the Divine Liturgy and memorial service. At the conclusion of the memorial service, s/he must bring the kolyva back home; they must not be distributed to the faithful in attendance.
a. Names for commemoration: Clergy must instruct the people to email the names that are to be commemorated at least one day prior to the memorial service.
i. If a parishioner is unable to email the names and prefers to personally bring the names in an envelope, the support staff in the narthex should instruct the person to open the envelope and deposit the list in a designated basket at the pangari. A designated volunteer will bring the names to the priest prior to the start of the memorial service.
2. Prosforon, Wine, Oil and other Offerings: If a parishioner brings prosforon, wine, oil or any other offering to the church, these items must be deposited in a designated holding area in the narthex until the end of the Divine Liturgy. After these items have been properly cleaned and disinfected, they may be used by the priest.
a. Names for commemoration: As in the case with names for memorial services, names meant to be commemorated at the proskomide should be emailed to the priest the prior day.
i. If a parishioner is unable to email the names and prefers to personally bring the names in an envelope, the support staff in the narthex should instruct the person to open the envelope and deposit the list in a designated basket at the pangari. A designated volunteer will bring the lists of names to the priest prior to the start of the Divine Liturgy
June 2, 2020 - Reuniting Our People With Their Parish Homes
On Tuesday, May 20, 2020, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago made the following statement:
Following its May 11 statement, the Metropolis of Chicago has issued guidance that would permit a greater number of parishioners to attend liturgical services provided that the conditions and protocols set forth in the guidance are strictly followed.
All faithful are strongly encouraged to carefully review the guidance to parishes outlining the permissible number of in-person attendees, permitted activities, and use of personal protective equipment, among other criteria. The faithful also are encouraged to contact their individual parishes with specific inquiries. We ask for your continued patience as parish leadership works to respond to your questions and concerns.
The Metropolis of Chicago has and will continue to be committed to providing for both the spiritual needs and physical safety of its faithful. While we pray and hope that the COVID-19 threat is quickly eradicated, the Metropolis of Chicago may need to reintroduce more restrictive guidance should future circumstances demand it.
Above all, we wish to underscore that individual actions can and will affect the broader community. The safety of our fellow brothers and sisters must be the responsibility of all those who participate in communal worship and activities in our churches.
The Metropolis of Chicago greatly appreciates the painstaking work performed by clergy and lay professionals of diverse backgrounds and expertise to develop the guidance in a timely manner. We continue to ask for prayers for our brethren and neighbors, especially for the first responders, those who are sick or who have passed, and for our public officials throughout our Holy Metropolis.
Statement from His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael Regarding the Death of George Floyd and Its Aftermath
On Monday, June 1, His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago made the following statement:
Like so many of you, it was with heartache, confusion and outrage that I watched the images of a white police officer, whose duty is to “serve and protect,” kneeling on the neck of a black man, George Floyd, who lay subdued and prostrated on the street, as his dignity, rights and life were slowly extinguished. It was shocking and devastating to witness a fellow human being begging for breath in the face of callous disregard for human life. This heart-wrenching injustice has now set our communities on fire, and alongside peaceful protests calling for much needed change, we have seen violent confrontation, looting and property destruction.
We call for an immediate end to the violence and for calm, but we must heed another call—our calling to responsible action. As children of God, Orthodox Christians and Americans, we cannot allow dehumanizing acts and the insidious plague of racism to continue in our country, dividing us from one another and separating us from God. In words that are just as true today, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. concluded, “[c]ertain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard … And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again.”
I call upon Orthodox Christians in the Holy Metropolis of Chicago to do the hard work that this moment in history demands. Grieve with the victims of injustice, pray for those gripped by hate and fear, protest peacefully against injustice, advocate for the under-served, rebuild destroyed communities and, above all, extend unconditional love and mercy. We are all complicit in the suffering of our neighbor, and we must all repent—transforming our way of seeing, thinking, and acting toward Christ-likeness.
Doing the hard work of repentance is the very essence of being a Christian and, to that end, we must prayerfully take up our crosses and begin, today, to reconcile with God and our fellow human beings. Our rights, our nation and our salvation depend on it.
Statement from the Metropolis of Chicago's Junior Board Regarding the Death of George Floyd and Its Aftermath
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Metropolis of Chicago:
The past few months have been difficult for all of us as we continue to deal with the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Further testing our strength and resolve, social unrest has been sparked by an abhorrent tragedy that took place last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The treatment and death of George Floyd was a tragic and devastating act of violence that must be addressed and prevented by all our spiritual, social and political institutions. Sadly, this indefensible event, along with similar occurrences in recent memory continue to bring systemic racism into focus in our communities; as Orthodox Christians it is our duty to stand against inhumane treatment. As our nation reacts to this tragedy, we are faced with peaceful protests that support the expression of our civil rights, but also unacceptable acts of violence and destruction that are counterproductive and misguided.
First and foremost, we urge the people across our six-state Metropolis to support safety within their households as well as their communities. The incremental stress, fear and anger that these circumstances have delivered affect each and every one of us differently; individually and together with our parishes, friends and neighbors, we must each take it upon ourselves to prayerfully mange these emotions and support peaceful healing.
Remember the power of prayer as an instrument to help us cope with these difficult events and remain guided by our Lord. We lean on our faith to provide comfort when we feel confusion, frustration, anxiety and anger. As always, if you or your loved ones need spiritual support, we urge you to reach out to your Priests and Spiritual Fathers. For up-to-date news and resources and a statement from His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael regarding these events, please visit Chicago.goarch.org.
People around the country and around the world are watching as leaders respond to the circumstances in their communities. We call upon all our Greek Orthodox faithful to lead by example and continue to be mindful of our thoughts, conversations and behaviors, to prioritize understanding, kindness and love towards ALL.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:12-13).
Statement Regarding Sacraments of Confession and Holy Unction
On Saturday, May 31, 2020 the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago made the following statement:
As the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago continues to reunite the faithful with their parish homes, it is taking steps to ensure that this reunion is grounded on the sacramental life of the Church. Today, the Metropolis of Chicago has offered its clergy special rubrics and guidelines for celebrating the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Unction. Effective immediately, provided that parishes adhere to Orders and Directives as set forth by the Metropolis of Chicago and by local authorities, the clergy are able to offer the sacraments of healing and reconciliation.
In the coming days, the Metropolis of Chicago will finalize additional, specialized rubrics for the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and Marriage. A training video will be provided to the clergy so that they may safely celebrate the sacraments of initiation and matrimony during these challenging times.
Commenting on the steps taken, His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago stated: “For almost three months, the faithful of our Metropolis have done their part in the common fight against COVID-19. I am humbled by our people’s love for their neighbor. They have patiently remained isolated in their homes. However, the time has come for them to be reunited with their parish homes. Participating in the sacramental life of the Church is an integral part of this reunion.”
Commemoration of the Fall of Constantinople
"The Uses and Abuses of Hagia Sophia: From the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 to Erdogan’s Neo-Ottomanism in 2020”
Alexandros K. Kyrou
It is no small irony that across the globe the edifice and image most widely associated with Turkey, Istanbul, and even perhaps Islam, is a sixth-century Orthodox Christian church— the magisterial Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, or “Holy Wisdom.” Built by some 10,000 workers between 532 and 537, its patron, Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, inaugurated the construction of Hagia Sophia in the imperial capital of Constantinople with the proclamation that the Church of the Holy Wisdom would be a cathedral like “one that has never existed since Adam’s time, and one that will never exist again.”
Remarkably, Justinian’s boastful claims proved to be as accurate as they were visionary. For virtually a millennium, Hagia Sophia was Christendom’s largest, most revered and awe-inspiring church. Hagia Sophia was the unrivalled ecclesial hearth of the Christian Church before the Western schism, the physical epicenter of the Orthodox Christian world, and the wondrous, breathtaking symbol of Byzantine grandeur and purpose. Indeed, for both contemporaries and historians, Hagia Sophia constituted the greatest achievement of late ancient and medieval architecture, an enduring masterpiece that embodied Byzantine civilization’s quintessential, sophisticated respect and quest for symphony and balance between the ethereal and the physical, majesty and beauty, place and boundlessness, science and mystery, creative genius and humility. Despite Hagia Sophia’s present diminished and abused condition, it is not difficult for even today’s visitor to appreciate the description found in a famous Russian ambassadorial report sent from Constantinople in 987 to Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, of what one encountered upon entering the great cathedral: “We did not know where we were, on heaven or on earth.”
When Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, virtually all of the city’s surviving cathedrals and churches were—after being desecrated and thoroughly plundered—forcibly seized and turned over to the Turks’ religious establishment to be converted to mosques and used as Muslim properties. The conquering sultan, Mehmet II, personally oversaw the conversion of Hagia Sophia. Crosses were demolished and exchanged for crescents, altars and bells were destroyed, icons were burned or hacked to pieces, mosaics and frescoes depicting Christian imagery were plastered over, and most of the cathedral’s priests were killed or enslaved. In time, four colossal minarets were erected to surround Hagia Sophia, producing the iconic image that has come to be globally associated with Ottoman Constantinople and Turkish Istanbul.
Mehmet took great pride in his belief that he had fulfilled Mohammed’s prophecy: “Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader he will be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!” Thereafter, Constantinople and Hagia Sophia represented for the Ottoman Turks much more than merely their empire’s capital and preeminent mosque, respectively. The conquest of Christianity’s greatest city and church was understood by Mehmet and his successors as divine proof of the leading role in the Muslim world to which the Ottoman Empire was entitled, a belief also manifested by the Turks’ subsequent relocation of the Islamic Caliphate to Constantinople.
Indeed, the purpose for the construction of the massive minarets that now tower over Hagia Sophia was to project to the world Islam’s triumph over Christendom’s greatest empire, city, and church. The capture of Hagia Sophia confirmed and symbolized in the Ottomans’ imagination their belief in the superiority of their state and faith over all other nations and all religions, a putative affirmation of their providential role and destiny in history. Hence, the Ottoman Turks formally dedicated their greatest, most celebrated single piece of loot—Hagia Sophia—as Great Fatih Mosque, or “Great Conquest Mosque.”
Despite the Turks’ conviction that their mastery over the great, coveted prizes of Constantinople and Hagia Sophia signaled their inevitable conquest of the remainder of Christian Europe, the Ottoman state showed signs of weakness by the sixteenth century and by the seventeenth century began a long, miserable decline and recession that culminated in the complete dissolution of their empire in the early twentieth century. Led by the Turkish nationalist, Mustafa Kemal, the Republic of Turkey, which emerged in the early 1920s to succeed the Ottoman Empire and to abolish the Caliphate, was officially premised on secularism. Kemal’s modern Turkey rejected the Islamic theocratic system that he and his modernizing nationalists held responsible for the collapse of the old Ottoman order.
In modern Turkey, secularism has produced neither freedom for all faiths nor separation of church and state. Instead, Turkish secularism has meant state control of religion through official policies carried out by the Diyanet (the State Directorate of Religious Affairs), the governmental institution responsible for centralizing, regulating, and directing Islam in Turkish society. Likewise, the Kemalists’ non-Western, non-democratic version of secularism has also meant that Turkey’s non-Islamic communities and institutions (in particular, Turkey’s Greek Orthodox Christians and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, respectively), inasmuch as they are regarded as impediments to universal “Turkishness,” are viewed with suspicion, treated with hostility, and subjected to a policy of steady, systematic persecution, with the goal being their final elimination. Indeed, following the Turkish nationalists’ genocide and population expulsions of Christian Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks between 1914 and 1923, the Kemalist republic inaugurated the Eritme Programmi (Dissolution Program), which has been continued by every successive Turkish government and that aims to ethnically cleanse all remaining non-Muslim communities in Turkey. The Turkish state’s implementation of this policy has included the targeted use of violence, intimidation, punitive taxation, property expropriation, and countless forms of discrimination and persecution, all intend to create unbearable conditions for Christians and Jews in order to produce their exodus from Turkey.
Clearly, the Turkish state’s claims purporting its embrace of Western democratic and secular principles have not at any time aligned with Turkey’s actual record of practice. Recognizing the need to produce the appearance of a secular democratic state and society when neither existed meant that secular symbols and symbolism became very important to the Kemalist nation-building project. It was, consequently, not a move that produced any resistance when Mustafa Kemal, presiding over Turkey’s one-party “secular democracy,” closed Hagia Sophia to Muslim worship in 1931 and reopened the historic structure as a museum in 1935. Just as Sultan Mehmet in the fifteenth century appreciated the symbolism of converting Hagia Sophia, the grandest of Christian cathedrals, to an Ottoman mosque for the furtherance of his imperial ambitions, President Kemal in the 1930s understood the symbolic value of transforming Hagia Sophia from a mosque—the quintessential iconographic symbol of the Ottoman Islamic past—to a Turkish museum for the advancement of his modern secular nation-building project at home and for the promotion of his country’s Westernizing image abroad.
Since his rise to power beginning in 2002, Turkey’s nationalist Islamist leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has cautiously continued to pay homage to the authoritarian principles and legacy of Kemal, as his government more and more openly draws its inspiration and aims from an idealized version of the Ottoman imperial past. Under Erdogan, Islam is steadily becoming the core of a reimagined Turkish identity, historical consciousness, and driver for state policy and purpose. According to Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman agenda, Islam, through its expanding public role, will be increasingly revered and privileged by the state, while it will also be harnessed to help restore Turkey to its rightful place as a global force and as the leading state within the Islamic world.
Like Sultan Mehmet and President Kemal, Erdogan, who many observers describe as a president who acts like a sultan, recognizes the importance of symbols and symbolism for advancing Turkey’s Ottoman revival. Much like Mehmet who used Hagia Sophia to showcase the superiority of Islam and the Ottoman Empire, or Kemal who employed Hagia Sophia to demonstrate the secularization and modernization of republican Turkey, Erdogan has steadily exploited Hagia Sophia to promote neo-Ottomanism and to mark the state’s public embrace of Islam and, through Islam, the promise of a return to Turkish greatness and power. In this sense, the much-reported gradual re-Islamization of Hagia Sophia over the past decade has served as a deliberate signal by Erdogan to the masses of his Islamist supporters of his commitment to realize a future in which Turkey, with Islam at the center of its public life, reigns supreme once more as a regional hegemon, a world power, and the leader of the Muslim community of nations.
In the final analysis, the importance and purpose of the Erdogan government’s preparations for a second conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque can be fully understood only if one recognizes what the Great Fatih Mosque symbolically embodies for Turkish, especially Turkish Islamist, nationalists. For Erdogan and his followers, Hagia Sophia remains the most potent, visible reminder of Ottoman Turkey’s might and glory, a rallying standard for a return to that former greatness, and a national icon to help forge neo- Ottomanism and to inspire Turkish society as its Islamist leaders move to fulfill their ambitions for Turkey in Europe, the Middle East, and the world. In that sense, the Turkish state’s current exploitation of Hagia Sophia, only the most recent incarnation of the Turks’ long history of use and abuse of the great Christian Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom, stands as a troubling bellwether to states and peoples worldwide committed to peace and freedom.
Alexandros K. Kyrou is Professor of History and Director of the Program in East European and Russian Studies at Salem State University, in Salem, Massachusetts, where he teaches on the Balkans, Byzantium, and the Ottoman Empire.
Reuniting Our People With Their Parish Homes
May 20, 2020
Since March 14, 2020, the Metropolis of Chicago responded to the threat of the novel coronavirus by issuing directives meant to help our community support public health efforts, protect our neighbors, and remain faithful to our Church’s traditions and teachings. Parishes across our six-state Metropolis have made significant adjustments to their fellowship experiences, pastoral care, and liturgical practices. Our people have made significant sacrifices; they have set aside personal need as an act of love of neighbor. Each of us, in a unique way, has contributed to the global effort against COVID-19. The fight, however, is not over, and we must remain vigilant in thought and behavior.
A comprehensive scientific approach, along with socially responsible behavior, will continue in helping guide our progress. However, this is not enough. According to Saint Basil the Great, we must show equal care for our souls as that offered to our bodies. This means that efforts to promote spiritual health must occur simultaneously with praiseworthy efforts to protect physical health.
The Metropolis of Chicago has been working diligently on a comprehensive set of directives and measures to help bring greater equilibrium to the care shown to body and soul. These guidelines are informed by modern science; however, they are also imbued with Orthodox theology—the queen of sciences. The directives found in, Reuniting Our People With Their Parish Homes, are meant to help our communities provide conditions for individual safety while remaining true to their Christian beliefs and identity. Though external rubrics may shift slightly during these times, our experience of God’s love remains the same.
The directives introduce overarching conditions that must be met across the entire six-state Metropolis; however, they also allow for variation based on the local parish reality, which is largely shaped by municipal, state, and federal laws and orders. Therefore, parishes in states with less stringent orders will include higher numbers of faithful in divine services than those parishes who must abide by more stringent governmental requirements. The Metropolis will work with the parishes and the clergy to identify means to offset such disparities across state lines.
Lastly, while we pray that the pandemic comes to an end as soon as possible, we must keep in mind that the public health effort remains fluid. This means that the Metropolis and our parishes may reintroduce more restrictive practices in the future.
Reuniting Our People With Their Parish Homes
Level of Attendance: Ultimately, local conditions of each parish will determine how and when parishioners can return to their parish homes. In addition to measures required by the Metropolis, each parish is required to abide by the directives and regulations of local authorities. At each level, practices of social distancing must be observed.
No more than 5 people, including priest and other support staff. Online/Virtual services permitted.
Level Two (Orange)
No more than 10 people, including priest and other support staff*. Online/Virtual services are encouraged to continue. The Metropolis will authorize a parish to enter Level Two once it has:
a. Certified in writing that it has met the requirements of the “Level Two - Parish Preparedness Checklist.”
b. Submitted to the Metropolis in writing the names and contact information of the members of its Parish COVID-19 Safety Committee.
c. Submitted in writing to the Metropolis with the manner in which it will identify and notify parishioners when it is their turn to attend services.
Level Three (Yellow)
Maximum number of people based on local directives and regulations. The directives and regulations among the 6 states of our Metropolis, and in some instances the regions within a state, will vary and will likely fluctuate as authorities adapt to local conditions. The Metropolis will authorize a parish to enter Level Three once it has:
a. Certified in writing that it has implemented all requirements of the “Level Three - Parish Preparedness Checklist.”
b. Successfully implemented the protocols in Level Two for at least three divine services.
Level Four (Green)
Return to Pre-COVID numbers. The Metropolis will monitor the national and regional progress to control COVID-19 and will, in the future, provide the parishes with directives on how to resume pre-COVID operations.
*In an effort to best adhere to social distancing measures, all acolytes must be at least 16 years of age.
Activities Permitted on our Church Campuses: With the exception of humanitarian aid distribution, currently, all non-liturgical activities must be conducted virtually. Whether the parish is offering online/virtual services, the priest and/or other members of the parish leadership may continue to visit the parish campus to check on the integrity of the facilities. In Level One or Level Two, outside groups are not be permitted use of parish facilities. If the parish has a rental agreement with an individual or an organization, it must seek advice from parish legal counsel. See Section F for care and cleaning of facilities.
Once authorized by the Metropolis to enter Level Three, a parish must submit a request to the Metropolis to resume certain non-liturgical activities on their campus. All liturgical and non-liturgical activities in Level Three must comply with the regulations of local authorities, including the use of personal protective equipment (“PPE”), crowd limitations, and social distancing.
Humanitarian Aid Programs: In the event that a parish has a program to distribute humanitarian aid to those in need that requires the use of their campus, such aid may only be distributed outdoors. Parishes must maintain the limits of staff/volunteers during these activities based on the limitations of local authorities. Staff and volunteers responsible for overseeing such programs must follow the safety measures as outline by the CDC: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/non-covid-19-client-interaction.html#
Services Celebrated at our Churches: The Holy Eucharist is currently the only Sacrament regularly celebrated in the Metropolis. As certain conditions are met, additional sacraments will be permitted. At all services, compliance is required with all regulations of local authorities, including the use of PPE, crowd limitations, and social distancing.
- The Divine Liturgy: The Divine Liturgy is being celebrated and may continue to be celebrated.
- Funerals: Funerals may be celebrated in our parishes if local authorities permit. Currently, there can be no more than 10 people in attendance; however, once a parish is authorized by the Metropolis to enter Level Three, it may allow mourners to attend funerals at levels permitted by local authorities.
- Sacraments of Marriage: The Sacrament of Marriage is not currently being celebrated in the Metropolis of Chicago. Since it is uncertain when weddings will be permitted again, the clergy are requested to work with couples to schedule alternate future dates for their weddings. When considering dates for weddings, the priest and couple need to consider whether a civil license may be obtained at that time. The original date for the wedding may remain on the parish calendar in the event that weddings are permitted by that time. Very soon, special rubrics for the Sacrament of Marriage will be prepared, allowing for the reintroduction of this sacrament of holy matrimony into the life of the parish.
- Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation: The Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation may only be celebrated, with permission of the Metropolis, in those rare occasions where the loss of life is imminent for the person seeking to be baptized or chrismated. Baptism and Chrismation under other circumstances are not permitted, until further notice. Since it is uncertain when Baptisms and Chrismations will be permitted again, the clergy are requested to work with families to schedule alternate future dates for the sacrament. The original date for the baptism/chrismation may remain on the parish calendar in the event that such sacraments are permitted by that time. Very soon, special rubrics for the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation will be prepared, allowing for the reintroduction of the sacraments of initiation and reception into the life of the parish.
- Sacrament of Holy Unction: The Sacrament of Holy Unction may not be celebrated in the Church at this time. As part of his pastoral work, the priest may visit a parishioner who is not feeling well and anoint him/her with Unction. Very soon, special rubrics for administering Holy Unction will be prepared, allowing for the reintroduction of this sacrament of healing into the life of the parish.
- Sacrament of Confession: As decided by the Holy Eparchial Synod, the Sacrament of Confession may not be celebrated by phone or through any other form of technology. An exception may be made, with permission of the Metropolis, in the event that a parishioner is hospitalized for COVID-19 (or loss of life is imminent) and is otherwise unable to receive a pastoral visit by a priest. Very soon, special rubrics for administering the Sacrament of Confession will be prepared, allowing for the reintroduction of this sacrament of reconciliation in the life of the parish.
- Personal Prayer in Church: Opening the Churches for personal prayer is currently not permitted. As the parishes enhance their local support base and become more accustomed to special cleaning protocols, and as parishioners become more accustomed to the use of PPE and following social distancing measures, the Metropolis will make special provisions for allowing the churches to open their doors on a limited basis for personal prayer.
- Other Services (e.g. Paraklesis, Vespers, Orthros): Clergy may continue to celebrate other services in their churches. Based on the level of attendance of the parish, and local directives and regulations, the faithful may be invited to attend those services.
Liturgical Rubrics: Clergy must follow the special rubrics for services and sacraments as provided by the Metropolis.
Care of and Cleaning of Parish Facilities: CDC guidelines for cleaning facilities must strictly be followed. The parish must follow a cleaning protocol of the church facilities, including restrooms and other accessible spaces, after the celebration of every service or after an individual or group enters the church (this is especially important when private prayer eventually becomes permitted). As parish employees eventually resume to work from their offices, those spaces must be thoroughly cleansed after every use. Unused spaces (gymnasiums, fellowship halls, and classrooms, etc.) should be off limits to parishioners and those visiting the parish. The CDC Cleaning Guidelines:
Health & Social Distancing Measures: Irrespective of the level of participation of the faithful, every parish must abide by the CDC’s social distancing standards and any other safety directives of the Metropolis of Chicago. The CDC Social Distancing Guidelines:
Determining Which Parishioners May Attend Services: At all times, parishes must abide by the maximum number of people that may attend any service as defined by the Metropolis and the directives and regulations of local authorities. Every parish must develop the method for determining which parishioners are offered the opportunity to attend services. Under no circumstance may a parish implement a “first-come, first-serve” policy that requires parishioners to stand outside their church to secure a seat prior to the service.
Parishes MAY NOT introduce a “rotation” or “waiting” system in an effort to maximize the total number of people attending a service or receiving the Holy Eucharist. For example, if the maximum number of people who can attend a service in a parish is 10, this means that the maximum people in attendance for the service, including the priest, chanter, sexton, support staff and parishioners must not exceed 10 people for that service. Others, waiting in line outside, in their cars, etc. to enter once the original 10 depart or in the event that one the original 10 does not show up is strictly prohibited.
Parishes must take steps to protect those at greatest risk. In addition to informing people who display symptoms of COVID-19 or who are otherwise not feeling well for any reason, parishes should intentionally remind the vulnerable population of the need to stay home, as recommended by the CDC: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/index.html. Until the CDC changes its guidelines, in an effort to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities, the parishes must not include members of the high-risk population in their attendance system. As part of their pastoral responsibilities, clergy, ensuring he is following safety measures, may visit such individuals at their homes to offer them the Holy Eucharist.
Marking Seats & Recording Attendance
In an effort to help with ushering people to their seats, as well as making the cleaning process more effective and efficient, each parish must mark seating locations for every service. Parishes must keep a record of the date of the service and names of the faithful who attend each service.
Use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): Everyone who enters a church building must wear a facemask or a similar covering, over his or her mouth and nose. Clergy must also cover their nose, mouth and eyes, as outlined in their Liturgical Rubrics. Hand sanitizer must be available at different areas of the Church and used regularly.