Greetings to all,
Bishop Clements has asked the Pastors in the synod to share this letter with the members of the congregations. I commend it to you.
Dear friends in Christ:
It now seems so long ago that I recorded my Lenten greeting to you. I was sitting in the empty sanctuary of First Lutheran Church in Geneseo on a Thursday afternoon in February as I reflected on why I find the season of Lent so meaningful. I named some of the liturgical rituals that feed my spirit as we move through the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It was a simple message in which I invited you to join me in the disciplines of Lent.
How life has changed for all of us in recent weeks I had no idea that as we watched Jesus walk into the wilderness (First Sunday in Lent) that we would soon find ourselves in a wilderness of our own; a wilderness of unknown peril. Opportunities for Wednesday, Sunday, and Holy Week worship evaporated. I could not have imagined that all of our sanctuaries would be empty and that we would be staying at home for our celebration of the Resurrection. It is all so different.
Everything is different. I am working from home. I have more meetings than ever, all in front of a computer screen. I must work to keep track of what day it is. Our groceries are being delivered. My car sits idle in the garage. I am adding to my vocabulary every day with words and phrases such as COVID-19, social distancing, flattening the curve, contactless delivery, and N95 masks. The same is true for you.
In Illinois, we have not yet hit the apex of the curve. The coronavirus continues to work its way into and through our communities. In times of fear, we seek our solace and comfort in the midst of others. We naturally go to church to be fed with God’s Word and holy sacraments. Right now, we cannot do that. Lament seems appropriate for this Holy Week. For now, our pastoral leaders are coming to us by electronic means (for those who have internet service). It is all so different.
This coming Sunday is Easter. Let us celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord! At my house, the Easter lily will be replaced by daffodils from our yard. The ringing of church bells will be replaced by the sound of a tiny bell. Joyous shouts of “Alleluia!” will only be our two voices. There will be no family gathering. No Easter eggs. No Easter dinner. But, thanks be to God, there will be the message of resurrection and new life. The tomb will be empty. Jesus will most assuredly live, and victory over death will be ours.
We must face these days with courage. In the face of uncertainty, let us boldly proclaim with the psalmist: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
Allow me to remind you that I have called this synod to pray each day at noon until May 13. I am asking you to pray for this synod, its congregations, and all who stand in need of any kind at this time. I make suggestions each day on the “Bishop Jeff Clements” Facebook page.
Also, and this is critically important, continue to financially support your congregation as we continue to gather remotely. Your congregation, this synod, and our ELCA are completely dependent upon your generosity. Your gifts make local, synodical, national, and international ministries possible. Your gifts support your congregation’s staff, the synod staff, and the Churchwide staff and the work that they all do.
Your gifts keep your congregation strong. This is a financially challenging time. There are many whose income has been drastically cut. I have long encouraged first-fruits proportional giving. First-fruits is giving off the top or giving to God first. Proportional giving can be a set percentage that fluctuates up and down with income. Give electronically if your congregation is set up for it or mail a check to your church office.
Walking together… loving Christ, loving all, for the sake of the world. That is who we are and what we do. I wish you a blessed Easter.