A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy of The Iowa Annual Conference

A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy of The Iowa Annual Conference

April 09, 2020

Dear Clergy Colleagues,

Grace and peace on this Maundy Thursday. Because of COVID-19, this day will be unlike any Maundy Thursday observance of which we have ever been a part. In the midst of the restrictions we must observe around gathering in groups, we will hear and respond to the Passion story in a different way. 

We are not able to wash one another’s feet this year, as is the custom in some of our churches. But we can all identify with Jesus’ words to his disciples after he foretold his betrayal, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:34-35).

I’d like to share several observations with you.

  1. I am so very grateful for the way in which you are quickly adapting to virtual worship. You have helped each other gain new skills, and many clergy have discovered that the fields are ripe for the harvest through online worship. You are reaching more people for Christ than ever before! Current Iowa restrictions, including in-house worship, are in place until April 30 but could be extended by Governor Reynolds.
  2. Your faith communities are discovering new and creative ways of being the church by reaching out to those in need. All it takes is a bit of imagination and an openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Several of our clergy have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Please keep them in your prayers as they receive treatment and recover.
  4. It is critical to care for your own body, mind, and spirit. We have developed a “chaplain” program here in Iowa, where designated clergy check in regularly with every pastor in the conference. Please let your chaplain know if you are struggling in any way so that we can provide appropriate help.
  5. Because of COVID-19, we will be forever changed as a conference, as a nation, and as a global community. May we as United Methodist disciples of Jesus Christ continue to claim God’s promises and be the ears, eyes, feet, and heart of Christ to our world. 

Bishop Laurie
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down;
now scornfully surrounded with thorns, thine only crown;
How pale thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish which once was bright as morn.
What thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain:
mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve thy place;
look on me with thy favor, vouchsafe to me thy grace.
What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest Friend,
for this, thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.
(Words: Anonymous, Latin, 17th century; Music: Hans Hassler 1601)