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April Communique Letter from the Bishop

Dear diocesan family,

We are in unprecedented and difficult times.

But as I reflect on our situation in this midst of this pandemic, I find comfort in the fact that God is our refuge and strength, our help in times of trouble, and therefore we need not, indeed should not, fear (Psalm 46).

As I shared with clergy earlier this week, there is a weighing of what seem like competing values going on in the culture, most notably public health and economic vitality. The reality is that both are valuable, and thus there is tremendous need for wisdom for our governmental leaders whom we must keep in prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Our values as Christians include loving our neighbors, and thus caring about their health, while at the same time being called to worship the Lord together.

Our diocese stretches across four states, and in some of these states, regulations have been lifted. As we head into a season of re-opening our churches one careful step at a time, each congregation will be working out their own path forward. We are working together and will follow the guidance of the CDC guidelines and state guidelines as best we can. Please be praying for your leaders and clergy as they make decisions as to how best re-open in your situation.

No one in history has faced a pandemic that has operated like this one. Be aware that the Enemy will try to appeal to our pride and divide us by whispering in our ear that “they are doing it wrong, you would do it better.” We are thus tempted to follow in the steps of Diotrephes who liked “to put himself first” and not submit himself to those in authority (3 John 9).

Returning to life in general, and church in particular, by stages linked to our age and vulnerability will be difficult for many of us. But remember that the Lord Jesus promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20) and we can worship in Spirit and in truth anywhere (John 4:23).

I just finished reading a recent biography entitled Victorious: Corrie Ten Boom and the Hiding Place by Stan Guthrie. During the Nazi reign in Holland, Corrie along with her family bravely hid Jews in their home. She and her family were eventually caught and imprisoned. Corrie lost her father, sister and brother but was herself miraculously released, spreading the gospel and working with war-torn refugees for the rest of her life. I was struck by her utter confidence that Jesus is Victor in whatever we face, as we trust in him. Her story helped me to put our present troubles in a healthier perspective. I commend it to you.

I believe likewise that as we are released from our stay-at-home imprisonments, the Lord will give us opportunities to share the gospel in a pandemic-torn world. Please pray that what has been a time of loss and hardship will be redeemed by the Lord so that his kingdom will expand in miraculous ways in the days, months and years ahead.

May the Lord uphold you all.

In the love of Jesus, the Risen and Reigning Lord over all,

+Neil

The Rt. Rev. Neil G. Lebhar