As we move toward the sixth week of our new life under the pandemic I’m reminded of the Psalmist’s cry,
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)
Certainly, many of us are asking that – whether because we are anxious to return to church, or to jobs, or to social life, or because this crisis has brought truly horrific suffering on physical, mental, emotional, and financial levels. Nearly three million people have been confirmed infected by this disease – the reality is surely many more. Likewise, at least 192,000 people have died around the world and over 50,000 in the United States alone. Twenty-six million Americans have lost jobs because of this enemy, and countless more have been forced to work with new pressures, dangers, and fears. We all want it to be over, but the most sober assessments tell us the end is a long way off.
Like the nation of Israel in exile, our world has been unthinkably shattered. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1).
As a congregation, I am proud of the way we have pulled together in time of crisis. We have been praying for one another, calling to check on each other, and working hard in our community. Despite being unable to gather in our sanctuary, our church has continued to hold worship online that has reached folks far beyond the boundaries of Charlottesville. Your significant commitment to generosity means we have been able to continue paying salaries, utilities, and Apportionments. Our Community ID program has been able to serve a released inmate, a woman seeking a marriage license, and several homeless vets. And although trying to sing together online has been frustrating, our choir has been meeting regularly to share, worship, pray, laugh, and even compose a new anthem!
The Psalmist’s plea is resolved,
“But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5-5)
Though the pain is real, so is the blessing. For the most part, our nation’s response to this crisis has been one of generosity, compassion, courage, and love. So, too, our congregation has responded in best Methodist fashion:
“Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can.” (attr. John Wesley)
Thank you for your continued giving. Thank you for your continual prayer. Thank you for your cooperation with state and local health directives and thank you for your support of the most vulnerable and needy in our community. Thank you for holding on to hope, keeping joy alive, and loving one another. Thank you for being the church!
In the days after Christ’s resurrection, the disciples experienced an extended wait… The angel said, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:7). When they finally saw Jesus in Galilee, weeks and weeks after the event, he left them with clear instructions for an even more uncertain future. They were to be the church – worshiping, serving, sharing, and living as disciples, that the world might see and become disciples. And he left them with a promise: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
Please continue to take care of yourself, remembering that these are the most extraordinary times and we must treat ourselves with extra compassion. Please continue to love and serve those around you, and to safeguard their health and yours. Please continue to join in our worship, to pray for one another, and to stay in touch. Please let me know how I can support and serve you through this time. Please continue to give as generously as you can to sustain our church’s ministry. Hold on to hope, and please remember Wesley’s final words: “The best of all is, God is with us.”
Yours in Christ,