Oct. 29, 2020
Beloved in Christ,
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
My heart breaks that over 1 million children of God have perished due to COVID-19 worldwide, more than a quarter-million in the United States alone, as of this writing. I grieve for the families and communities that are suffering these losses.
Truly, we are all moving through the stages of grief for the many losses this pandemic has delivered – from jobs and education to personal connections, congregational gatherings, and activities that we once took for granted, so many things that nourished us in body, mind, and soul.
This crisis seems unending, and we long to return to “normalcy,” but we cannot. Not yet. Indeed, we must be more vigilant than ever.
Last Sunday’s gospel lesson reminds us of Jesus’ greatest commandments: to love God and “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Friends, loving our neighbors means protecting them from this deadly virus. We know that even a person without symptoms can unknowingly be a carrier of this virus. Without intending to, we could be spreading COVID-19; we must reduce the chances of that whenever possible.
To guide us we need only ask, “What would Jesus do?” Jesus was a healer. He spent far less time preaching about gathering for worship than he did calling his disciples to heal the sick. He led by example, doing everything he could to bring healing and wholeness to the places where he encountered people in need.
How do we seek the healing of our neighbors? Certainly not by putting them at risk by gathering in person against the advice of health safety experts.
Three basic principles of our Wesleyan heritage are Do No Harm. Do Good. And Stay in Love with God.
The first, do no harm, is at the center of our Christian duty in this moment. We have seen the tragedy that occurs when Christians disregard this call. Sadly, there are churches that are known super spreaders in New England. Let us not contribute to that number.
The second is to do good. I implore our clergy and lay leaders to follow the advice of your local health officials. And then go even further: If you live in an area with a high infection rate or a known outbreak, I implore you to refrain from any in-person activity until the risk of infection has dropped significantly. Continue to meet online, by phone, and use other creative ways to stay connected and care for one another.
If you do meet in person, please follow our guidelines and create a re-entry plan in consultation with your District Superintendent.
Lastly, stay in love with God. How better to show God our love than to care for each other, God’s beloved children?
Clergy and laity, I am grateful for the ways that you have come together in this crisis. Clergy, especially, have worked so very hard to continue to serve, and I know you are being stretched thin. Laity, we are grateful for all the help you are providing to our clergy and I truly appreciate it.
Once again, I am requesting that you support your clergy as these numbers rise again, so that we are being especially cautious and doing all we can to avoid harming our own members, visitors, and the communities in which we live.
As followers of Jesus Christ, let us put our own wants aside and focus on what is needed – by our neighbors and by us – and do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
May God give us the courage and stamina we need to continue to endure this long night. And may God bring healing and relief to a hurting world.
In Christ’s Love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar