Bishop Letter from the March Communique - Coronavirus
Dear Diocesan Family,
As we are living in this time of a truly global pandemic, let me begin with the transforming words Jesus shared with his disciples. They were about to face his crucifixion, the greatest tragedy and most redemptive act in human history, when all of human sin crushed our Savior (Isaiah 53). After predicting that the disciples would abandon him, Jesus concluded, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In the midst of the uncertainties we all face, as life as we know it has come to a halt, we must hold fast to our Lord’s declaration of victory over all the evil in a world of tribulation. Rather than being discouraged by the present, we are to rejoice in the hope of the eternal kingdom that Jesus began what can never pass away.
Let me share some challenges that are very much on my heart:
- Continue in your Sunday worship online. Either be part of your congregation’s online worship, or join another congregation if yours is not able to live-stream. Here are links for churches in the Gulf Atlantic Diocese that are streaming worship.
- Pray and fast. Please be praying for the world, our country, our states, and our local communities. God is able to move mightily as we pray. I am reminded of these words from Ezra 8: “Then I proclaimed a fast there . . . that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods . . . So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.” Here are some powerful prayers for the journey we are all on through this emergency.
- Take more time to study the Scriptures if you find you have more free time than usual. Perhaps choose one book of the Bible and dig in. If you are reading online, I recommend the ESV translation that many of our churches use.
- Pray especially for a revival of faith and for your part in it. Revivals often follow crises of various kinds, when the culture is sovereignly reminded of life and death issues and the Lord then pours out his Spirit on his church to reach the lost. The Great Awakening gained momentum after an earthquake in 1727. The Jesus Movement began in the late 1960s and was tied to the turmoil of the times, including the huge divisions caused by the Vietnam War. Ask the Lord for opportunities to share the gospel. Be praying now for those you could invite to join you in church when we begin public worship again. Perhaps share links to worship services that are live-streamed with those who do not have a relationship with the Lord or a church home.
- Recognize that three quarters of the people around you miss church every week. Thus, they have no opportunities to grow in Jesus and serve God with the body of Christ. This is a season when we are tasting the isolated lives of a majority of Americans. Rather than just feeling at a loss ourselves, we should be heart-broken and have a greater compassion for the lost.
- Look for ways to serve others as needs become apparent. I was just talking this week with a rector who was delivering food to people in need. Many of you are already finding ways to serve.
- Remember the Enemy desires to destroy our churches during this virus outbreak. A simple way he tries to do so is to cut funding. For those who can give, please do so online, or by mailing your checks. I challenge many of you to give more than usual because there will be others who now suddenly cannot give much at all. And there are others who will need help. Please see Ame Eldredge’s article about giving in this Communique, and please be praying for the Lord’s provision for those in need and for your congregation.
Know that I am praying for you all in this time. I have been much encouraged by the reports I am hearing about what the Lord is doing among you. My prayer is that when this pandemic is behind us, we will all have grown closer to Christ and become more concerned than ever before for those who do not know him.
In Jesus who is Lord over all,