UPDATED March 26, 2020:
The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace will lead online worship, preach on Sunday
The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, 53, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, and the first person in Tarrant County to test positive for the coronavirus Covid 19, has recovered enough that he will lead online Morning Prayer and preach from Trinity this Sunday, March 29, 2020, the Fifth Sunday of Lent. It will the first time he’s led worship at Trinity since Ash Wednesday, on February 26, the beginning of Lent.
The service will be online at 9:30 am on Sunday.
UPDATED March 20, 2020:
Please rejoice with us. The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, 53, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, has had two negative tests for the coronavirus Covid 19. The Tarrant Public Health Department has signed an order releasing him from isolation and quarantine on March 19, 2020.
His wife, the Rev. Dr. Jill Walters, will restart a two-week quarantine, but they will not have to remain separated from one another. He is still recovering from pneumonia, and it will take some time before he regains his strength. He cannot talk much because it exacerbates his coughing.
So while he will not be giving any interviews soon, he released this statement to the people of Trinity. Read the message
UPDATED March 17, 2020:
The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, 53, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, was released to his home on March 11. He remains in isolation in a bedroom at his home. Pace’s wife, the Rev. Dr. Jill Walters, is on self-quarantine. She has tested negative for COVID 19. The Rev. Walters is also at home, but has no direct contact with her husband. They are communicating by cell phone; meals are left at the door to the bedroom to prevent contact. They are checking in regularly with the doctors supervising his care. Today, Rev. Pace said via email that “I am feeling better and getting stronger every day.” In a statement to the parish issued March 12, Father Pace said: “I do feel improvement every day, and I also am keenly aware of their prayers, for which I am truly grateful. Finally, please know that I am also praying for the wonderful people of Trinity every day, asking God’s guidance, grace, and continued blessing on this special parish.”
Updated March 13, 2020:
The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, 53, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, who tested positive to the coronavirus Covid19 on Tuesday, March 10, continues to improve, although he remains in quarantine.
Trinity Episcopal School has announced they are extending spring break for two weeks. Classes are now scheduled to resume on Monday, March 30.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley declared a disaster Friday citing a public health emergency related to the spread of the new coronavirus. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price declared a state of emergency for the city following Whitley’s address. Tarrant County Public Health director VinnyTaneja said houses of worship should limit the number of people allowed into service. He discouraged the use of shared cups and food during religious services as well as any close contact.
(Bishop Scott Mayer has already discouraged the use of the Common Cup and banned intinction, the dipping of the bread into the wine. )
Several congregations in the diocese have canceled in-person worship on Sunday, March 15, opting instead for online services ranging from Morning Prayer to Eucharist.
The diocese will be offering Eucharist via Facebook Live at 10 am Sunday, March 15. You do not need a Facebook account to watch the service. You can download a service bulletin at edfw. org.
Posted March 12, 2020:
The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, 53, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, who tested positive to the coronavirus Covid19 on Tuesday, March 10, is improving. He is in good spirits. He said in a message to the parish today, ” I do feel improvement every day, and I also am keenly aware of their prayers, for which I am truly grateful. Finally, please know that I am also praying for the wonderful people of Trinity every day, asking God’s guidance, grace, and continued blessing on this special parish.”
Sunday worship in the building remains canceled, but Trinity will be offering Morning Prayer at 9:30 am Sunday. The service will be offered via Facebook Live on Trinity’s Facebook Page. Trinity will have a prayer leaflet available for download on their website. The Rev. Canon Janet Waggoner, Canon to the Ordinary (assistant to the bishop), will lead the prayers.
This letter was sent to the parents of the children enrolled at Trinty Preschool, which is on Spring Break this week. Tarrant County Public Health had earlier determined that the students had no exposure to Father Robert.
Dear Trinity Families,
I know you have all been anxiously awaiting an update from us, and I appreciate your patience. Today the school board met to discuss the current situation in our community.
Although the health department has cleared us to be open, the school board has decided: Trinity Episcopal School will extend our spring break by one week.
We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you as informed as possible.
For an update on Father Robert…. He is doing very well. He is feeling much better and is waiting out his isolation. His wife is still testing negative and is in isolation at home. They both thank you for the prayers and your well wishes.
Please know the health of your children and our staff are of the highest priority and everything we do is for them.
Thank you for all of your support,
Melissa Pannell, MPH, MCHE
Director – Trinity Episcopal School
3425 Bellaire Dr South
Fort Worth, TX 76109
Guidelines from Bishop Mayer
Bishop Scott Mayer has issued Guidelines to Promote a Faith-Based Response to Covid-19 in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. The guidelines were developed in consultation with the clergy of the diocese.
Statement from the presiding bishop
This is the statement the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, issued to the House of Bishops the evening of March 11, 2020:
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We are facing an unprecedented challenge with the COVID-19 outbreak, which the World Health Organization has just deemed a pandemic (see link). In this context, bishops having charge of a diocese have my support as Presiding Bishop if, in light of the public health situation in their diocese, they decide – for a designated period of time – to suspend the administration of the common cup to the congregation in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, and/or to cancel in-person gatherings for public worship.
I encourage you, in the event of cancellation of these public gatherings, to use technology to offer worship.
God bless you, and keep the faith.
The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Third priest tests positive
A third Episcopal priest has tested positive in the wake of attendance at annual conference of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) in Louisville, Kentucky.
All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly HIlls, CA., has notified congregants after Rev. Janet Broderick tested positive for the virus. The church released a statement saying in part,
“As you may know, our Rector, Janet Broderick, took ill shortly after returning from the annual conference of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) in Louisville, Kentucky, which was attended by more than 500 Episcopalians from around the country. As you also may know, it was reported last Sunday that the rector of Christ Church Georgetown in Washington, D.C, an attendee of the conference, was diagnosed with the Covid-19 coronavirus.
After an initial assessment., she was moved to the ICU and placed under isolation. At that point, her care team moved forward with a test for Covid-19. The results were returned today, and it has been determined that Janet has tested posivite for the virus.
The campus, located at 504 N. Camden Drive, has been closed, with services suspended, pending guidance from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, according to the Rev. Nathaniel Katz, the church’s senior associate rector.
Posted March 11, 2020
This news release was sent out to secular and church-related news media operations on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Below it is the release sent out by All Saint’s Episcopal School, where the Rev. Dr. Jill Walters is the Early Childhood and Lower School Chaplain. She has tested negative for COVID19.
For immediate release
Late Tuesday, March 10, leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and Trinity Episcopal Church learned that the Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, 53, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, has the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Tarrant County. Pace is hospitalized in isolation. His wife, the Rev. Dr. Jill Walters, has tested negative, but will remain in self-quarantine at home for 14 days.
Bishop Scott Mayer of Fort Worth is in touch with them and offering pastoral care. The main focus of the response from the parish and the diocese is to remind people that we are all in this together, responsible for caring not only for ourselves, but for each other in responsible, loving ways.
Trinity’s leadership and staff and the diocesan staff are working closely with Tarrant County Public Health to insure everyone’s health and safety.
Closures and cancellations
Trinity has closed the church building and offices to the public for the time being. Trinity’s Preschool is on Spring Break this week. The preschool students had no exposure to Pace.
Trinity has canceled all worship services this Sunday, March 15. The Lenten program scheduled for tonight, Wednesday, March 11, has been canceled.
In consultation with Tarrant County Public Health, the staff at Trinity have identified the people who attended the March 4 Lenten program, about 45 people. Pace spoke at this event. Trinity has notified them to be alert for a phone call from Tarrant County Public Health Department to check on their health and to discuss what they should be monitoring themselves for. The calls will probably begin Wednesday afternoon.
After initial discussions with the public health officials on Tuesday night, news was sent to the rest of the congregation that, based in exposure to Pace, they are at no risk. Read that letter.
Trinity and the diocesan staff are exploring ways to gather in community in an online worship service.
Bishop Mayer will issue guidelines for our clergy and congregations as we navigate this health crisis.
Trinity and the diocese have shared this information with CEEP, with the Episcopal Church Center, and with the board of the Association of Episcopal Deacons (AED) and attendees of the A3D Conference of Archdeacons and Deacons, held March 8-March 10. The Rev. Tracie Middleton, deacon at Trinity, is on the board of AED and attended the conference.
On Tuesday, March 10, prior to the results of the test, Bishop Mayer and the Rev. Janet Waggoner, canon to the ordinary (assistant to the bishop), held a ZOOM meeting with the clergy in charge of congregations to discuss what ongoing precautions congregations are taking. These include discouraging people from coming to church if they are ill, offering Communion with only the bread, as the sacrament is complete in either the bread or the wine; banning intinction, the practice of dipping the wafer into the wine and then placing it in the person’s mouth; no shaking of hands during the passing of the peace, instead encouraging nods, waves, bows, and elbow bumps; stopping the passing of the plate, instead making the plate available for donations at the door and/or online donations.
The bishop is closely monitoring developments and keeping in touch with Robert Pace and Jill Walters, and with the clergy of the diocese.
On Tuesday, March 10, Bishop Mayer took part in an online meeting of the House of Bishops, the first hour of which was focused on the coronavirus, with a presentation by Rob Radtke, president and CEO of Episcopal Relief & Development. Radtke pledged his agency’s support for the bishops’ work responding to the coronavirus outbreak and highlighted some online resources. The briefing also featured John Clements, a retired Tulane University microbiology professor who now serves on the Public Health Subcommittee of the U.S. military’s Defense Health Board. He is an expert on infectious diseases.
Timeline of developments
The Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) had its annual conference Wednesday February, 19, 2020 through Saturday, February 22, 2020, in Louisville, KY.
The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, attended that gathering.
On Thursday, February 27, Pace went to his physician when he began feeling ill. He tested negative to the flu twice.
On Tuesday, March 3, Trinity was the site of a polling place in its Parish Hall.
On the day of the election, Pace had not been in the church building or office for five days. He left the building on Thursday morning, 2/27 and did not return to the building until late afternoon on Wednesday, 3/4. The elections people brought in their own tables, chairs, and election equipment.
On the evening of Wednesday, March 4, Pace returned to the building to present a Lenten program. On his return to the building, Pace, the associate rector, and a deacon wiped all hard surfaces in his offices and commonly touched surfaces in his office with Clorox wipes.
After Pace led the Wednesday night class, the assistant rector wiped the lectern, microphone, chair, and piano bench with Clorox wipes just to be extra cautious. Pace’s exposure to anyone being within 3 feet of him was very limited, mainly to the associate priest and the deacon. Pace was appropriately cautious also. At that time, he was coughing, but had been fever-free for 24 hours.
Pace has not been in the building again since Wednesday evening 3/4 at 7:45pm when he went home.
On Saturday March 7, leaders at Christ Church Georgetown sent out a message that all services and gatherings at the Washington, D.C., church would be canceled indefinitely because someone at the church had tested positive.
On Sunday, March 8, the rector, the Rev. Timothy Cole, wrote to his congregation to tell them that he was the person who had tested positive. He had been hospitalized and was reported to be in stable condition. CEEP also notified the public that the Rev. Dr. Cole had been in attendance at the conference.
That same Sunday night, discussions began among Pace and parish and diocesan staff about the extent of his exposure and how quickly he could be tested. The bishop was notified of the developing situation. Pace does not know Cole, nor is he aware of encountering him at the conference.
On Monday, Pace met his physician at the hospital, where he was tested. He was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. He got the results of the test on Tuesday afternoon around 5 pm.
On Tuesday night, Trinity sent a letter to all parishioners, informing them of the situation and alerting the attendees of the March 3 Lenten program at which Pace spoke to expect a call from Tarrant County Public Health to talk to them about what monitoring of their health they will need to do. Those calls will most likely begin Wednesday, March 11, in the afternoon.
Please hold the Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, the Rev. Dr. Jill Walters, the staff and congregation of Trinity Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, in prayer through these next few weeks. Pray for all who are ill, and those who care for them. Pray for all who have died, and those who mourn them.
For more information contact:
Director of Communication
Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
4301 Meadowbrook Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76103
817 909-0070 (mobile)
Trinity Episcopal Church
3401 Bellaire Drive So.
Fort Worth, TX 76109
From All Saints’ Episcopal School
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Timely updates and information about All Saints’ Episcopal School of Fort Worth can be found on www.aseschool.org/crisis. You can also reach out to me directly, see contact information below.