“The darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me…”
Abide with Me, Henry Francis Lyte
Dear East Tennessee Friends,
I am writing to you on the Wednesday after the fourth Sunday of Easter. I write to you as we all continue to live in the midst of changes and chances of the COVID 19 pandemic.
In writing to you now, I do so aware that the new reality of life in the midst of a pandemic is how we will live for the foreseeable future. Until we discover a vaccine and share it widely, we will all have to learn new and creative ways to be the people of God together.
I have heard many speak of how long this year’s Lenten season felt as the pandemic arrived in the middle of it. Even though it is now Easter, a lingering kind of Lenten discipline will be with us for some time. We will have to be creative and imaginative as we care for each other and for self, as we continue to care for the least among us.
In this moment, I am taking real comfort with the image of Jesus as the One who abides with us. Abiding, lingering, remaining, keeping faith with us in the midst of the storm. As someone who loves to believe the illusion that I am in control, COVID 19 has exposed the falsehood of that.
Yet, Jesus abides with me. The Good Shepherd cares for sheep, leading us through good pastures and the valley of the shadow of death. I am not in control. While, that knowledge might cause me to fear, if I can go deeper into that knowledge, it can also teach me to stay close to the One who abides.
Jesus abides. In this moment, when all of us may feel helpless, he remains the help. We will find our way together through this season of pandemic, if we stay together and continue to stay close to the Risen Christ who abides with us and remains with us.
The COVID 19 Task Force will be releasing guidelines later this week for clergy and parish leaders to consider as we make plans for some kind of in-person public worship. We do so, aware that this plague season is requiring all of us to go beyond old limits of creativity and imagination.
My prayer is that this plague season will not undo us or cause us to remain in despair. My prayer is that this season will teach us again that Jesus abides with us. If we believe that, we will have enough to meet this moment.
You all remain in my prayers. Pray for me.