FROM BISHOP LAURIE AND THE APPOINTIVE CABINET
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
We write to you to encourage and support you in this time marked by coronavirus warnings, quarantines, social distancing and even the cancelation of March Madness! Our world has undergone major changes in the last few days and weeks. Our governor has declared a state of emergency and prohibited all social gatherings of greater than 10 people including spiritual and religious gatherings and events. The implications of this order are tremendous and far-reaching.
Bishop Laurie Haller and her cabinet are taking actions that will help our churches continue to do what they do best: love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. We are gathering and producing resources that will be made available to communities of faith to help in this transition from face to face gatherings to remote and home-based gatherings. We will be consulting experts in the worship arts, streaming, electronic meetings and social media.
Many people are asking, “What can we do? How can we help?” The following list is by no means comprehensive or original. It is a start and hopefully, it will stir your imagination and help you to find ways to support your community of faith in this extremely scary time.
Take care of yourself. Practice good hygiene, wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and get plenty of rest.
Practice “social distancing.” As you are able, stay home unless it is truly necessary to leave, if your employer allows you to do so. It appears this may become more feasible for the time being with the governor’s state of emergency declaration.
Do not horde resources. The news is filled with stories of empty shelves where paper products, cleaning supplies and food staples should be. Continue to check in with your local food pantries and with your neighbors and follow John’s teaching in Luke 3:11 “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”
Reach out to people who are alone, including your single friends. Nursing homes, hospitals and care facilities are not allowing visitors to protect our most vulnerable. Make a phone call, write a note or send a gift. The reminder that someone cares will help shorten a long day.
Reach out in support and care to your family, friends and neighbors who are experiencing new financial insecurity and worry due to layoffs and workplace shutdowns. Make a phone call, write a note, send a gift. We are in this together.
Many communities are helping to feed children who would normally receive meals at school. There are many feeding programs already in place across the state, if you are not aware of any in your local community, contact your church office and ask how and who you can help.
Participate in the alternative forms of worship that are being made available to you. These opportunities allow us to remain in community with each other.
Support your church financially. If you do not have some sort of electronic giving in place, send your church a check. A large percentage of our local church budgets are received during weekly services. With these services canceled, many of our communities of faith can find themselves in dire straits. Our local churches still have financial obligations that need to be met. If you can make a special gift in excess of your normal pledge, bless you.
Pray. Pray for the obvious: cures, good health and recovery of all. Pray for those whose lives are being changed for the worse, pray for those who are experiencing mental fatigue. Pray for your church community and all who minister and are ministered by the church.
Pray more. Pray for your church staff, your leadership and laity, and your pastor(s). Your pastor and leadership team are working in uncharted territory. Trying to discover new ways of doing ministry and providing resources means your pastors are working four or five times as hard as they reach out, resource and connect your church and your community in new ways. They are planning for things that may never happen, they are planning for things they hope will never happen. Your clergy and lay leadership are two of the most important resources we have and without them, we would be totally lost.
We are praying for all of you and your communities. If we can be of any help, please let us know. We look at this as an opportunity to be better at what we are called to do. May God bless us, guide us and lead us where we need to be.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.