Thank You from Bishop Laurie

Thank You from Bishop Laurie

November 05, 2020

To my beloved pastoral leaders of the Iowa Annual Conference,

Grace and peace in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As I was reading the lectionary passages for this Sunday, I was struck by the words of Psalm 78. 

Listen, my people, to my teaching;
    tilt your ears toward the words of my mouth.
2   I will open my mouth with a proverb.
     I’ll declare riddles from days long gone—
3        ones that we’ve heard and learned about,
        ones that our ancestors told us.
4   We won’t hide them from their descendants;
    we’ll tell the next generation
    all about the praise due the Lord and his strength—
    the wondrous works God has done.
5   He established a law for Jacob
    and set up Instruction for Israel,
        ordering our ancestors
        to teach them to their children.
6   This is so that the next generation
    and children not yet born will know these things,
        and so they can rise up and tell their children
7        to put their hope in God—
        never forgetting God’s deeds,
        but keeping God’s commandments.

I want to thank you for all of the ways in which you are sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and embodying God’s love. None of us anticipated 2020 to unfold as it has, as a year marked by the pandemic, a contentious national election, environmental crises, and economic hardship across the state. Since mid-March, with the arrival of COVID-19, we have gone through conference-wide closure to the place where local leadership now has oversight on reentry. Whether you are currently virtual only or gathering in limited ways for worship in person, you have transformed the way in which ministry takes place in your church. 

In light of the dramatic increase in COVID-19 in the state of Iowa, the Iowa Conference Re-Entry team will be sending out an email update within the next 24 hours. Please read it closely. 

During these last eight months, you have learned how to use technology for worship as well as for Bible study, Sunday school, and youth groups, and classes. You have arranged for shut-ins to receive regular phone calls, have held Zoom committee meetings, and found ways to creatively reach out to your communities in mission. You have also encouraged your parishioners to invite their friends and neighbors to participate in worship virtually. You are learning about circuit ministry in the Iowa Annual Conference. At the same time, you have reminded your congregation(s) to remain faithful in financial stewardship and apportionment giving.  

All of this has come at a cost. Many of you are bone-weary, anxious, and/or discouraged. Some of you have not had a vacation in months. You are not sure you can keep up with the intensity of ministry in this time. Or you may not be on the same page as some of your congregation members in regard to COVID-19 precautions.

I would like to offer several suggestions for how you can tend to your spirit and remain whole and healthy during this unprecedented time.   

  • Read a good book.
  • Watch a movie at home.
  • Walk through the leaves or ride your bike on one of our wonderful Iowa trails.
  • Invite one of your lay persons to lead worship one weekend. Your congregation will be blessed, and you will have a much-needed break.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Take a regular day off every week and do not apologize for it. 
  • If you are feeling overly stressed, talk to a good friend or make an appointment to see your doctor. 
  • Stay connected with family and friends. I’ve included pictures of our two grandsons and their new dog, Zoe, on Halloween. Gary and I lament the long driving distance between Iowa and Michigan.  
  • Limit the watching of news.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.  
  • Recognize that you cannot be all things to all people. Relax.
  • Rise up and tell your children and all with ears to hear to put their hope in God, never forgetting God’s deeds and keeping God’s commandments.

Please understand how important it is for you to care for your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. None of us know how long the COVID-19 Pandemic will last, so we need to be equipped and ready for the long haul. If you are struggling, I invite you to contact your district superintendent. You may also call Employee and Family Resources at 800-327-4692. When you call, let them know that you are connected with the Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist. For more information click HERE. Please take advantage of this resource for your health and the health of your family, thanks to our IAC Board of Pensions.  

One more thing. The Cabinet has created another complete worship service for you to use in November. It was pure joy for us to prepare the service for you. You will be receiving a link for the service by Monday, November 9. And please remember that members of the Cabinet have offered to preach for you. All you need to do is call or email one of them. HERE is a directory of the IAUMC staff with information on how to contact them.

May God’s grace surround you with peace, joy, and hope in the days ahead.

Blessings,

Bishop Laurie