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Our beloved diocesan family,

I always write to reassure you of the love and care I have for you, more especially during this public health pandemic. The national and international community without exception is experiencing an unprecedented health care phenomenon. Every sector of human life is facing massive disruption that is testing the core of our faith, our mental, physical, emotional, psychological and financial capacity and endurance. However, God’s people are shaped and formed to be resolute, resilient and persevering. The good news is we are fortified with grace that comes from a loving and caring God. A God whose very character is distinguished by perseverance and determination to conquer any vice or enemy directed toward the beloved community.

We are in the Season of Holy Week which ultimately leads into the Season of Easter with the timeless message of new life and new beginnings exemplified by our Savior Jesus. He is ALIVE and because of this we are more hopeful. God’s reassurance of Hope is the antidote against all falsehood and fear. Ultimately this ‘invisible enemy’, COVID-19, will be conquered and at the end of it we shall emerge a stronger and better people. Hopefully, more of us will embrace the fruit of contemplative discipline and an appreciation for the importance of enjoying solitude with God. The prophet Zechariah 9: 12, describes God’s people as ‘prisoners of hope’. We are characterized by an indefatigable quality that surpasses human understanding. In order to fruitfully navigate this enemy, we must ‘dig deep’ to draw from the reservoir of patience, tolerance and self-control.

Beloved, we must address this public health crisis as a united Community of Faith, resolute in our determination, resilient in our collective approach, and fortified in our faith – with unwavering confidence and unequivocal trust in God. We shall do this together, loving our neighbor as ourselves, taking care of each other and, by observing directives issued by national, state and local authorities. I wish to re-emphasize the directive to stay at home except for critical reasons or essential purposes.

The Presiding Bishop’s Press Release, which was shared with the diocese, along with my Pastoral Letter a few weeks ago, encourages bishops to be creative in using technology and social media for online worship. I would like to pass on to parishes the very creative license authorized by the Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry. The recently held House of Bishops encouraged the advocacy of “Spiritual Imagination”. As such, I am passing on to the diocese the said counsel I received from my colleagues.

I have discovered in my conversations with clergy and wardens, the numerous amazing and creative ways being utilized to share resources and even to collaborate in online worship. It is obvious from my vantage point that, as challenging as this new normal is proving to be (especially for those like myself who lack advanced technological and social media skills), many are learning very quickly. The stories of hope, collegiality, creativity, exploration of new formats, intuition and grace are unbelievably heartwarming and indelibly touching. There is an abundance of ‘spiritual imagination’ permeating our diocesan landscape that would certainly gratify everyone without exception.  In the inspired words of the Apostle Paul, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” (I Timothy 5: 18 & I Corinthians 9: 9).

I am extremely convinced our members across the diocese are understanding and fully appreciative of the reality before us. I am equally gratified by your exercise of charity, love, pastoral care and sensitivity – that while I should be physically distanced from you, I am by no means spiritually “absent”. These sentiments are equally understood and expressed by your clergy as well. They are grieving and hurting at their inability to be with you during this time of crisis. A time in which their pastoral and professional charisms are most urgently needed. And so, out of genuine love and care for you, I am urging you to maintain your connections online or by phone as much as possible. I encourage you to call on your pastoral leaders, your beloved clergy, to check in on them – offer a prayer with them, assure them of your love and support, encourage them to be strong and resilient – because when all is said and done you need them to be there with you to ‘pick up the pieces’ and lead onward, upward, and forward together. Please remember your church’s mission and ministry obligations in ‘crisis time’ are far greater than in ‘peace time’. To this end, I encourage you to wherever possible, remember your beloved church and its needs.

Furthermore, I urge you to take care of yourself, family and loved ones. Together, we keep the prayers ascending and will continue to embrace a robust emotional and spiritual support network. We shall overcome this pandemic as a community of faith. And I am extremely confident, we will discover that the diocese and our family of Churches will arise stronger and better positioned to live into God’s vision for God’s church on the eastern shore of Maryland. This is the hope and prayer of God’s beloved community called to live into the spirit and essence of the RESURRECTION. Let me re-emphasize, by God’s grace and mercy, we will get through this and our family will gather again for worship, prayer, fun and fellowship. I offer to you my beloved, all God’s unconditional love and blessing! A Reflective Holy Week and Happy Spirit-filled Easter Season.

Bishop San