|A Letter From Bishop Laurie|
|Beloved of God,Last Sunday’s gospel reading had us walking with the two on the road to Emmaus. As we continue in our current shutdown, it looks like our sojourn walking with them has been extended.|
Though this was not what they’d planned, they don’t give up.
Though they don’t understand where this will lead them, they remain open.
Though they could be paralyzed by grief or fear, they seek the wellness of the other.
Though they were grieving and confused, they listened for hope, for wisdom, for faith and slowly, eventually, they did see the Savior, in the breaking of the bread.
In the wake of the crucifixion – an anxious, confused, faithful, grieving, time – they walk, breathe, listen, include. And so do we.
Part of my new normal during the shutdown has been attending regular virtual meetings with a small group of other faith leaders in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown, and the expert advisors she is relying on to navigate us through this pandemic. They want us to know, we who lead churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, that our faith life together is an important piece of the ongoing planning for Oregon’s public health and wellness. As talk of reopening dominates news headlines, and states go their different ways, the message from local scientists and government leaders could not be clearer, here in Oregon we are taking the medical data and CDC recommendations seriously, and the reopening will happen in phases that are more restrictive than those laid out by the federal government.
What does this mean for churches?
What these proposed phases, and meetings with the governor make clear, is that the likelihood we will meet in sanctuaries across the state anytime soon is low. Schools, sporting events and church gatherings, where hundreds or even dozens meet together, will remain closed for the foreseeable future. For those over 60, the request to stay home and stay safe will likely last much, much longer.
I write this with a heavy heart. This is NOT the news I’d been hoping for. I too, ache for churches to reopen with grand celebratory sermons, plaintive prayer, warm hugs, and festive worship. But, I want us to be realistic so we can plan well, as we begin to think in months rather than weeks. Like your governor and her team, the health of Oregonians remains my central concern. Until there is either herd immunity or a vaccine, we’re looking at a summer of advance and retreat as we dance with the realities of the coronavirus in our midst.
As Dr. Fauci has said:
So, we take a breath. Offer a prayer. Call a friend. Go on a walk. Eat well. Go back to the essentials. As we journey together along the road of this pandemic, we are reminded, yet again, that we are not in control. And yet, we know we are not alone.I look forward to a day when we WILL gather again in the flesh. When we can look back together on this corona-time, and discuss how we have been changed, opened up, and made wiser and surer of God’s resurrection power. How Christ fed us even when we were unable to see the Holy right in front of us. How Spirit used our weakness for good. How church, community, and even communion have changed us and cracked open our capacity to connect with a wider world.
Until then, let’s remember that we are God’s beloved, we are together, and we are called to courage and compassion in and with Christ.