April 22, 2020
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear…Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” -John 20:19
Dear East Tennessee Friends,
I am writing to you on Wednesday after the Second Sunday of Easter. I am writing to you in a season when many of us are spending countless hours inside our homes, keeping social distance in order to limit the community spread of COVID 19.
After the very first Easter, in the aftermath of the Resurrection, Jesus’ closest friends are in a house together. The door is locked. They are afraid.
Jesus, who had been placed in a tomb, is now risen. His friends, who are alive, have locked themselves in a house, with great fear. That locked and fearful house had become a kind of tomb.
Jesus enters that house. He enters without unlocking the door.
He does not require his disciples to gather up their courage before he enters. Upon entering, he does not offer words of rebuke or shame or disappointment.
Rather, he offers them peace. He breathes on them. The Spirit makes more space and opens up what had been locked down and afraid.
This time of a global virus is a time when being afraid makes sense. Along with the potential for grave illness, we are living in the midst of economical upheaval. We are not in control on any front.
If you are at home and you are afraid, Jesus is not about to enter your home and offer words of rebuke or shame or disappointment. Jesus desires to bring peace and breathe upon you. The Resurrection season is a time when fear is met with peace, when locked spaces are met with Spirit-filled breath.
At this time, the facts on the ground regarding COVID-19 still necessitate our need to do all we can to combat community spread. I would ask that you continue to engage worship, pastoral care, and Christian formation as a dispersed body, still refraining from gathering in person.
The Diocesan COVID-19 Task Force is working on several fronts. One matter relates to what it will look like for us to be able to gather again in person, safely, for worship and ministry. We are developing guidelines to aid parish churches when that season arrives. The Christian ethic of care for the other, the weak, and the least among us will guide our thinking with these next steps. Until that time arrives, I am thankful for your willingness to bear the many burdens of this extraordinary time together.
You all remain in my prayers. Pray for me.