Greetings in the strong name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in whose fellowship we, by the grace of God, are most richly blessed and favored to abide. Peace, hope and love in Christ Jesus!
As the coronavirus COVID-19 has increased its spread we have all received from local, state and national authorities ever more restricting guidelines for gatherings and social distancing. There is something hauntingly biblical as the guidelines have narrowed from 100 to 50 and now to 10 persons for public gatherings. And, of course, we remember St. Paul’s teaching, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” (Romans 13:1)
In the 12 plus years I have been your bishop, I have known my share of joyous hours as well as those heavy of heart. These last few days since cancelling our Diocesan Convention have fallen in both categories. Giving a further directive to our clergy yesterday to cancel on-site worship services for the next two weeks has been troubling to them and to me. However, it has also been quite encouraging—alive with possibilities. As I talked with our rectors in the Charleston deanery and with the deans of our diocese yesterday, I was heartened as they shared ideas and ways they are pastoring and caring for their parishioners during this season. What a godly and sacrificial group of clergy serve our congregations. Throughout this week, I will continue to have conference calls with the clergy in our deaneries to share ideas for ministry and support.
The church down through the centuries has faced many crises. During the Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia in 1793 Christian clergy and laity distinguished themselves in caring for sick; the plagues that visited London and other cities and towns of Europe during the Middle Ages and later, became the things that saints were made of. During wars and rumors of war, on battlefields and through bombing raids, the church continued to gather, lifting high the cross of Christ. Missionary doctors and nurses, military chaplains, parish clergy, nuns, and mendicants, like St. Francis embracing confidently the leprous, caring for the sick and dying, have been hallmarks of our history that we as believers rightly celebrate.
Nevertheless, I suggest that faithfulness in an age of pandemic means a church united and confident enough not to meet, at least not in the buildings we normally call the church. To live out our faith in our homes and with our families offers us an opportunity to grow deeper in prayer and in the fruit of the Spirit. This time of social distancing, worshipping and keeping in touch with others online and through small group fellowships provide us an opportunity to cultivate the spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, journaling and reading and mediating on Holy Scripture. Increasing our family time and personal devotions might make this the most fruitful and memorable Lent ever. For the busy parent with children out of school and restless, Brother Lawrence’s little classic, Practicing the Presence of God, might be just the perfect Lenten reading!
Bishop Mark Lawrence speaking at @AFM_US conference on 2 Timothy chapter 4 and finishing the race well. “What are those things that keep you from a vibrant relationship with God?” Quoting @JohnOrtberg, “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” #Anglican pic.twitter.com/eIpxB0sQGb
— Jeff Walton (@jeffreyhwalton) September 25, 2019