The following is a new letter from the national leadership of our United Church of Christ.
Dear Friends in Christ,
We send this with the magnitude of our emotions written large on the surfaces of our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits. We feel deep pain, loss, and anguish on our collective behalf for all that we have experienced in the last two months. Worship in our sanctuaries has come to a sudden halt. Jobs and incomes have been threatened, if not lost. Loved ones have suffered or died from a hidden enemy for which there is no current remedy.
Our sheltering in place is exhausting. For many of us the loss of human contact, the drudgery of unchanging surroundings, our inability to frequent places that brought joy to our lives, and the call to adapt overnight to overwhelming change are taking a toll.
We are also witnesses in this time to heart-warming acts of human kindness and solidarity that speak to the angels among us. We are not only making great sacrifices, we are doing so in a collective effort to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us. The courage, stamina, endurance, compassion and empathy being practiced among us remind us that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. The power of a faith enriched by Easter joy and resurrection hope is not diminished by anything. Neither death nor life, not angels or demons, not power and principalities, not height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
Seeing the church in and through this time fills us with a lingering hope in humanity, in the Body of Christ, and in the promises of a God whose only begotten child came that we might have life, and have it to the full.
In short order, states and municipalities are going to begin relaxing their shelter in place orders. We also write to strongly encourage you to give deep thought and prayer to how, if, when, and under what circumstances you will return to worship and other gatherings.
There will be a great temptation to rush back into our sanctuaries, celebrate victory over this corrosive and deadly virus, and return to life as we knew it.
Please think long and hard about that. There is no going back to life as we knew it. For a while at least, even what seems like a safe gathering may present a threat to the life of someone we love and care deeply about. Something substantial will emerge on the other side of this that we did not recognize before it started. Some of that we will accompany with our grief; and some of it we will receive as a gift from the God who is always about to do something new.
Please pay close attention to anything coming from your Conference offices about when you should return. Your Conference staff is keeping close watch on this and should be consulted before you make any decisions.
(Note: First Congregational Church has elected to wait until late summer to re-evaluate a return to in-person worship).
You are all in our thoughts and prayers. All of us in this denomination are working, as one, to find our way through this. You are not alone. We love you all. We are seeing and feeling deeply your pain and suffering; as well as your heroic efforts to find meaning and healing in the midst of it. All of our own efforts are now being expended to help us find our pathway through this – a pathway we share in partnership with each other, and with the Holy Spirit of the living God and the risen Christ.
May the power of the love that created us, the love that redeemed us from the grave, and the power of the Holy Spirit rest upon you wherever you are on this journey. Lift up your eyes to the hills, from whence comes our help. The Creator of us all keeps watch. “All shall be well, and all shall be well; and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich).
John. C. Dorhauer, Traci Blackmon, Karen Georgia Thompson