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A Hand of Outreach, from Church to People

This week, Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel sent a special outreach plan to clergy and Diocesan leaders, to guide and direct parish efforts to provide help during the Coronavirus pandemic. In this extraordinary time, the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church is extremely concerned for the wellbeing of people among our local parish communities.

The “Outreach Plan for Clergy During the Pandemic” aims to meet the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of parishioners across the Diocese. It addresses several dimensions where people may need care and comfort. Pastors and parish leaders are asked to:

  • Reach out spiritually, to keep people focused on hope, peace of mind, and God’s strengthening presence in uncertain times;
  • Reach out with practical information on the COVID-19 virus, and to refer people to reliable resources and guidelines;
  • Reach out by modeling best practices of sanitation and social distancing;
  • Reach out to the physical needs of parishioners who may need food, medications, and phone or virtual contact with a caring friend.

The outreach plan gives special attention to vulnerable subgroups among the parishes. Most have sizable elderly populations: the group at highest risk for infection by the virus. Other at-risk groups include shut-ins (and others who live alone), single parents, recent arrivals and their families.

In ordinary circumstances, the weekly face-to-face interaction of church attendance would be a way to “monitor” the wellbeing of these groups. But now, with in-person worship (and gatherings of any kind) suspended in churches—at the urging of health and government authorities, and the appeal of Catholicos Karekin II—it is more important than ever for pastors and parish leaders to reach out to the community, ascertain who is in need, and identify able-bodied volunteers who could help.

Spiritual as Well as Physical Concern

However, the plan makes clear that it is not just the physically vulnerable who need attention. In a situation that is completely novel, anyone—even those who usually seem physically robust and secure in life—are likely to be subject to stress, depression, and the discouragement of isolation.

That is why a spiritual perspective is a paramount emphasis of the plan. Conveying a tone of comfort and care, reassurance, and the power of faith in adversity, may be the most important tool to bring to the situation.

“Our aim is to lovingly assure our people that the Armenian Church is here to help and support them in every way,” said Bishop Daniel in his letter to parish leaders accompanying the release of the outreach plan.

A key to its effectiveness will be the role played by pastors. “I have often said that the clergy of the Eastern Diocese are our greatest asset,” said Bishop Daniel, “and I have turned to them once again, as the shepherds of our Diocesan flock, to step into their role of leadership.” The plan itself was compliled by three longtime clergymen at the Primate’s request.

At the same time, local clergy are urged to seek collaboration from among their parish leaders, who bring unique expertise, energy—and their own love for the Armenian Church and people.

In enacting the outreach plan, clergy and parish leaders are reminded to comply with current local, state, and federal regulations issued to contain and mitigate the Coronavirus pandemic. But they are also urged to keep a focus on the larger objectives of Christian ministry.

“Outreach is an opportunity to bring together all of our faithful, enlisting them in loving service and strengthening the Body of Christ,” Bishop Daniel affirmed. “In this time when our people are deprived of the life-giving sacraments of our church, this effort can draw them into another dimension of Holy Communion with the risen Lord.”

Click here to read more about the Eastern Diocese’s “Outreach Plan for Clergy During the Pandemic.”

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