|Dear Holy Trinity Church,
I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I write to you out of deep sympathy for all that our world and community is going through right now, and out of a pastoral concern for the ways in which we as the Body of Christ choose to speak and act and relate as the effort to re-open our country and states is under way. So, I offer the following spiritual and missional reflections about how I think God is inviting us to respond to the pandemic and one another.
First, we need to see our situation within the larger story of God’s creative and redemptive purposes. This means resisting the temptation to allow partisan politics and cultural voices dictate our response to this pandemic or our relationships to one another. God’s story narrates the defining realities of our lives: This is our Father’s world; he remains its Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer from beginning to end (Gen 1-3). We belong to God, our good Shepherd and gracious Keeper (Ps 23, 121), who will see us through every valley. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, placed in the world by God to enhance the flavor of life and bear witness to the hope of the gospel (Matt 5). And Christ, who reigns over us and all the world, will make all things new (Rev 22).
Second, we need to acknowledge the loss and cost endured in this pandemic. Some have lost jobs, lost loved ones, lost community; others have lost psychological and emotional health; other economic security. We need to recognize and grieve this, treat each other and our neighbors with sensitivity and compassion, and be willing to bear one another’s burdens so that no one walks this road alone. We also need to remember that the ‘other’ we are serving is not some vague abstraction, but includes our friends and neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ, the names we cherish and faces we long to see. So let’s be present to one another in the ways that are available to us, be transparent about what is going on in our lives, encourage and support one another through this.
Third, we need to cultivate a social imagination shaped by the virtues and values of the kingdom of God. We live in a culture where many believe unlimited freedom of choice is what it means to be human. But what if real freedom is the ability to choose love? It seems that the social imagination of Jesus (Matt 7:12; John 13:34-35) and his followers (Phil 2:1-5; 1 Pet 3:8-9) was not primarily animated by the ideals of individual rights and self-preservation, but by love and responsibility for others. They consistently commend the virtues and actions of those who care for the weak and needy and defenseless, and do not merely look out for their own interests. So should we.
Finally, we need to care for one another deeply and relate to the world missionally. What would it look like in this time to bless others – whether they are like-minded or not? How do we pursue unity of heart and mind in our church family, in our neighborhoods or places of work? In what ways can we invest in the interests and lives of others? How can we position ourselves for creativity and generosity in the days ahead?
As our beloved Bishop Todd Hunter has said, “If you cease gathering for a period of time, you have not stopped being the church; you are ever more poignantly the church, serving others by denying yourself. Love (2 Cor 5:14) and service for the most vulnerable (Rom 15:1) are the reasons we are changing our behavior, not pressure or fear or self-protection.”
With this spiritual and missional posture in mind, I will be communicating with you in the upcoming weeks about plans and guidelines to gradually restart some of our church ministries and physical worship gatherings in the months ahead. Meanwhile, the pastoral staff and I are here to support you in whatever way we can. Please don’t hesitate to contact us. May the Lord bless you with peace, creativity, and generosity.