Dear Beloved in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am grieving for all those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and for the millions who have become jobless and hungry as a result of its impact on the economy.
I thank God for the incredible health professionals, essential workers, and volunteers who take tremendous risks daily to care for those who are sick and to provide for our basic needs during this time of sequestering.
I give thanks for the extraordinary leadership of many civic leaders, scientists, and researchers who are working tirelessly to reduce the spread and mitigate the damage from this global pandemic.
During this time of “sheltering in place,” I have taken the opportunity to worship with congregations in different parts of the world. I have been enriched by the music, liturgy, and preaching from a variety of traditions and theological understandings.
I have also been disturbed by painful jokes, prophesies, and misunderstanding of Scripture made in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some perspectives I have heard are rooted in fear, anxiety, and pain; others in pride, arrogance, ignorance, and biblical illiteracy.
How should we witness in a time like this?
In my struggle to find an answer to this question, I was reminded of the lyrics of Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s hymn, “God of Grace and God of Glory,” written for the inauguration of the Riverside Church in New York City nearly 90 years ago.
When Fosdick wrote this hymn, Christendom was at its zenith, but people were facing the Great Depression, sandwiched between World War I and World War II, and there was a widespread sense of hopelessness. Though different from our situation, some of the emotions that people are experiencing in the face of COVID-19 are similar.
Fosdick’s lyrics make a great ecumenical and interfaith prayer. In a recent conference call with a governor in the Northeast, I was privileged to meet with leaders from various faiths and denominations. It was heartening to be with representatives of so many faith communities who are praying and working together to aid those adversely affected by the virus.
Fosdick’s prayer is as powerful and relevant for our time as it was for his:
“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour …
for the living of these days …
lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal …
serving thee whom we adore”
~ UMH #577
Grant us wisdom … not money, or gifts, or power, but wisdom that comes from placing our lives in God’s loving hands. Grant us courage … not security, not ease, not freedom from risk, but courage for whatever challenges come our way, trusting that “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
May our adoration of the Creator God be manifested in service according to the unique gifts given to each of us. May we face this hour with courage to do what is ours to do and with wisdom to speak the truth about the nature, cause, and cure, of COVID-19. Let us speak up for those who are the most vulnerable and name the reasons, and about God’s present goodness that will sustain us as we seek to end the pandemic and the misery it has inflicted.
I want to thank all of you pastors and volunteers, along with church, camp, and conference leaders and staff for your super ministry in these difficult and challenging times.
Remember, God loves you all and so do I!
In Christ’s love,