April 14 and 15, 2020
We celebrated The Day of our Lord’s resurrection with joy and hope across the diocese. The creativity, hope and peaceful calm that I saw in the many services I clicked into this past weekend nourished and strengthened me. As our Presiding Bishop said, “it didn’t look like Easter. It didn’t smell like Easter. Perhaps it didn’t feel like Easter. But Easter came anyway.” Thanks be to God. Thank you for your faithfulness.
Now what? We’d been looking forward to Holy Week and Easter for weeks and preparing for them in this changed and changing season for what seems a long time. Countless hours and tremendous energy were poured into Holy Week and Easter worship and other virtual activities. Now that the Easter season is here, what we were looking forward to and preparing for is in the past. What do we look forward to now? How do we keep going when we still don’t know when we can return to our churches? We’re going to be in this time for a while longer. We are in it together. So how do we keep on doing what we’re still learning how to do, and how do we do it with our spiritual, emotional and physical health intact?
I offer three thoughts:
- We will keep praying and worshipping and leading prayer and worship. There seems to be some misunderstanding about the instruction I gave last week and that came into effect on Monday of Easter Week. We are not suspending worship. We will never suspend worship. We are, however, expanding our fast to include fasting from live-streaming or recording services in our worship spaces. We make this sacrifice for the benefit of others. Worship will continue as we all lead it now from our homes. Many congregations are already doing this kind of worship beautifully. We’ll offer some specific suggestions later in this webinar.
- Give yourself permission to slow down and do less. I give you permission to slow down and do less. I urge you to do so – and in urging you, I urge myself as well. Some of us set a pace for ourselves at the beginning of this crisis that was good and right then, but that might not be sustainable now. A commitment to leading virtual Morning Prayer and/or Compline every day, for example, is a beautiful gift to the congregation, but maybe it feels harder now. If any commitment you made is life giving, if it has become a rhythm, if has taken on a life of its own, wonderful; keep it up. If it is feeling like a burden, if it is feeling like it is not sustainable, it is ok to stop, or to invite others to take part, to do it less often yourself, to move to once a week instead of once a day, to teach people how to do Compline on their own at home. We’re going to be in this time for a while more, so let’s all pace ourselves and switch from sprint mode to marathon mode.
- Tend to your faith and your spiritual life. Tend to your own soul. That might take the form of spending more time in prayer than may be your custom. Or journaling, talking with our spiritual director or spiritual friend, staying in touch with your colleague group, taking a retreat. Perhaps you’ll unplug from all the electronics for some time every day. Be sure to take your day off!
If you are not working as many hours each week these days as you used to because you’re caring for children while at home, or caring for parents, or clocking fewer hours because we’re not able to do in-person hospital, nursing home and home visits – if any of those or similar circumstances are yours, remember that you are still in a position of responsibility and leadership and still deserve to be paid. If you are feeling pressure from your vestry or your matriarchs to do more when you are already at capacity, or if you are getting pressure to take less pay, please be in touch with Bishop Brooke-Davidson or me and we will have your back. You need room to care for yourself as you care for the people committed to your charge.
One specific piece we offer to support you in this is some sermon relief for those who would like to take advantage of it. Bishop Brooke-Davidson is recording a sermon for this Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter; it will be available for anyone to use. Mary Thorpe will prepare and record a sermon for the third Sunday of Easter. Other non-parochial clergy, lay leaders and I will prepare sermons that you can download and use for other upcoming Sundays and holy days. We hope this might be a gift and a support to all, especially to clergy serving solo in a congregation and to congregations that do not have clergy now. Details about how to download these sermons will be included with the summary of this webinar that we send to you by the end of the day today.
An invitation to the clergy retreat will soon come to your mailbox. The virtual retreat will be on Tuesday, May 5. I hope you will join in the rhythm of prayer and meditation in community with other clergy of the Diocese that day.
Finally, a note about the Episcopal Church Asset Map that we mentioned a few weeks ago. Episcopal Relief and Development works in times of crisis with people who are doing hands on ministry and service in local communities. They want to know about your food pantries and other outreach ministries. Please take the time to update your listing on the Asset Map so that the good work you are doing may be connected with the work of others. Aisha Huertas on our diocesan staff administers this work and you will receive more details from her shortly.
We turn now to our centerpiece of this webinar – Communication.