March 20, 2020
God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That's why we won't be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves. (Psalm 46: 1-3 CEB)
Dear Siblings in Christ,
These are times of great trouble and challenge. You are doing amazing things with limited resources, knowledge, and accessibility. Thank you for stepping up at this time of crisis and for working so diligently to make sure people are cared for, connections are maintained, and folks are fed body and soul.
It looks like we will be in this new norm for a while yet and that once we reach the other side things will never again be as they were. No one knows what the resulting ramifications will be for our society, our government, our economy, our communities and our church. It is said too often but nothing else seems to convey it: we are living through an unprecedented time.
I want to tell you that the Annual Conference and Greater Northwest Area leadership are actively engaged in this with you. We are meeting frequently to assess the ever-changing situation and trying to respond in ways that enhance the health and safety of us all while being mindful of our call to love our neighbors.
I have heard many ideas of how we can still be church, still serve, and still connect even with personal distancing and limited gatherings. Here are a few I would offer for your consideration:
- The town of Windsor Locks, CT ring bells at 8:00pm each night as a sound of joy, solidarity, connection and above all hope.
- In some neighborhoods people are gathering in their front yards and on their porches at 5:00pm and waving at each other, calling out greetings and checking in.
- Clergy are sending out regular notes or devotions or Bible Studies to their congregants.
- Churches are holding Zoom prayer gatherings and Bible Studies.
- While maintaining recommended personal distancing, groups from churches are doing prayer walks around their neighborhood and community - stopping to pray at schools, closed businesses, homes, parks, etc.
- Using recommended precautions, churches are finding ways to continue to operate their food banks (like drive by box pick-ups) and meal programs (through meals-to-go handed out as folks drive by).
- Churches are purchasing gift cards for restaurants that do take-out and delivery either to give away to those in need or to give these businesses some immediate income with the intent to use the cards in the future.
- Having a prayer station on the sidewalk or in the parking lot of the church where people can stop (always practicing appropriate protocols) for prayer or self anointing/baptismal renewal as a reminder of our being part of God’s family.
Other ideas will come to you. You are already doing things that I don’t know about. There are plans afoot to help you in your efforts to love your neighbors by the District and the Annual Conference. Just because we can’t do things as we always have doesn’t mean we can’t still serve and love.
You will receive an email invitation from me for weekly Zoom get-togethers. One for clergy and one for laity. These are not mandatory but are just an opportunity to connect, worship together and be community. I hope you will join me. If you need something from me, from the District or Conference, let me know. The District and Conference Offices are “open” regular hours even though people are working remotely. The business is getting done.
Thank for your diligent work of faithful discipleship. In times such as these we partner together, and we partner with God and Christ to love and serve. You, your people and your communities are in my prayers. God bless you and keep you, may God’s countenance shine upon you and bring you peace.
In Christ’s service with you,
Rev. Tim Overton-Harris
Cascadia District Superintendent