In the North Carolina Annual Conference, we have meteorological crises and disasters down to a science. When a low pressure forms in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico we know what to do. We know how to prepare. We have good advice on how to endure. We have well-honed plans on how to recover. Unfortunately, all this wisdom borne of experience is not applicable in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. We are in unchartered territory – as a world, as a country, as a church, as individuals. The truth is that there is no clear script for responding at this time. So where does that leave us?
Here I’m reminded of something I read many years ago. The most common command in scripture is, “Do not fear.” In many instances of this command is the realization of the presence of God. Thus, the command is really more of an invitation to release fear by knowing that God’s presence is at hand.
I don’t think that means that God commands us to not worry. Having concerns in the midst of crisis is a natural human response. However, worry does not need to lead to despair. At times like this, what we must realize is that God is with us in the midst of this crisis. The truth of Emmanuel (God-with us) is as true now as it was in the quiet, calm and serene Christmas Eve candlelight service. We still serve a Savior who overcame death and brought forth life.
At this point, we need to remember that God calls faithful people into community. This is the heart of our ecclesiology of connectionalism. We are stronger together than we are alone. To this end, we need to live into our common life together. Practically, at the general church level, bishops and connectional leaders are in constant communication sharing ideas on how we all can best get through this situation. This is paralleled within the conference as the cabinet is sharing ideas. Many of you are practicing this as you connect with fellow pastors and other community organizations.
The most important thing right now is for each of you to nurture hope, cultivate connections and seek to remain spiritually healthy. Find ways to foster the relationships that revive your soul. “Social distancing” is about physical space, not about our connection with others. Please know that I am available if you need to talk. Within your church, find ways for both you and key leaders to make connections with the congregation, especially those who are most vulnerable. Brainstorm about creative responses to be in mission. We are working on a format for pastors to share ideas with each other. We also will keep you apprised as new developments unfold.
Right now, please hear the scriptural invitation, “Do not fear.” God is with us!
Corridor District Superintendent