Bishop’s Pastoral Letter to the Diocesan Family
“But take courage; I have conquered the world” John 16:33
You would recall that in my Pentecost Pastoral Advisory I concluded my communication with these words “on a note of personal privilege, I shall continue to wear my mask and shield in public gatherings, including worship, indefinitely.” This is a statement of solidarity with our unvaccinated children and young people. I have three grandchildren and until I am convinced their health and safety is secured, along with all my surrogate children, as well as the young people in our diocese, I shall be walking with them in this journey.
In addition, as a global missionary for Christ, I have friends and family members across the globe: in my home country Guyana and continent of South America, my adopted country Bahamas, my former Province of the Indian Ocean, comprised of Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius, and global mission partners in Africa and my ancestral country, India. All these beloved souls are in under-served and vulnerable countries in the wider global community. These individuals near and dear to me are being stymied in their efforts to access COVID-19 vaccinations, so I invite you to stand in solidarity with them in this health and safety crisis. In May, continuing to use the word “crisis” could have been interpreted as pessimistic. However, in the months following the Feast of Pentecost we witnessed our country and the global community returning to live under some versions of COVID 19 protocol. The virus and its attending variants – Delta and MU, continues its hold, primarily on the unvaccinated, our children, elderly and fellow citizens with underlying health and safety concerns and others with immunodeficiency conditions. So we must adhere to more stringent health and safety protocols then we may have enjoyed in the late Spring/early Summer.
Despite the prevailing scenario I wish to reassure the diocesan family that your diocese has no intention to close our churches for in-person worship or social and/or civic activities. Overall, every church has practiced health and safety protocols with diligence and care for the well-being of the faith community with whom we are called to minister. Clergy and lay have been stellar and exceptional in their adaptability, creativity, and versatility. Old models have merged with new modalities to create a healthy worship and ministry atmosphere, whereby, everyone has felt safe and reassured that their health and safety matters. As a church community we have reached a vast expanse of new frontiers and mission fields we were unable to reach in years previous. For many of our faith communities there is a growing sense of renewed life and vitality.
Even as I commend and witness these efforts, I do recognize that for some there is still a permeating sense of despair as to their future viability as a church. My beloved, I am aware of your fear but wish to remind you whose Church we serve, and to whom we belong. Furthermore, to trust in his words, that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). Remember your beloved servant bishop’s refrain, “a risen Savior is incompatible with a dying church”!
I urge all of you to please maintain effective ongoing levels of heightened vigilance. I unequivocally endorse parishes who have a mandate on wearing face masks during worship, including singing, to mitigate against any unintentional transmission of the variant. This strategy is proven effective – Camp Wright, who maintained an indoor masking mandate throughout the summer (except while actively eating) had zero reports of Covid transmission. I am immensely proud of their efforts, and steadfastness, in upholding protocols for ensuring a safe camping experience for our young people. Let us practice hospitality towards all by being active mask wearers inside church.
Fall Summit: A Conversation on Racial Healing and Justice
The inaugural Fall Summit of the Diocese of Easton will be held on Saturday. September 25, 2021 commencing at 9:30 a.m. and concluding at 2:00 p.m. with appropriate zoom breaks and virtual breakout rooms. The topic is Reconciliation focusing on the very sensitive subject of Racial Justice and Healing. The main speaker and presenter is Dr. Catherine Meeks, Founding Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia, and one of three presenters at the 79th General Convention. This conference is an initiative of the Diocese of Easton in conjunction with the Diocese of Easton’s Diversity Awareness Commission.
“Reconciliation is at the heart of the Jesus Movement. Through it we grow loving, liberating, life-giving relationships with each other, dismantling and healing racial injustices and hierarchies that separate the human family of God. With God’s help, the Episcopal Church is living into a long-term commitment to Becoming the Beloved Community: we are telling the truth about our churches and race, proclaiming God’s dream of wholeness with our neighbors, practicing Jesus’ way of love, and repairing the breach in our society and institutions.” (Dr. Catherine Meeks)
Dr. Meeks is the author of Living into God’s Dream: Dismantling Racism in America and editor of Standing on Their Shoulders: A Celebration of the Wisdom of African-American Women. She has served as Distinguished Professor of Socio-Cultural Studies at Wesleyan College and directed the Mayor’s Youth Violence Task Force in Macon, Georgia. Most recently, she chaired the Diocese of Atlanta’s Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism, which organized retreats and workshops on racial/cultural diversity and spiritual development. Learn more about the Absalom Jones Center at www.centerforracialhealing.org.
The diocese views this summit as a continuation of, and building on, the remarkable, crucial, and critical work in racial and diversity training engaged by the Retreat House, Camp Wright, the Bishop’s Institute, the Diversity Awareness Commission, and multiple parishes around the diocese. Included in that work is the engagement of programs and conversations happening around the world, including the Episcopal Church’s “Sacred Ground” and the Anglican Communion’s “Difference”. The summit is meant to create a platform to highlight all of this work, share stories, gain additional ideas, information and new understandings. In recent times and in recognition of the current climate of heightened national and global focus on racial inequality and injustice, this work has taken on a renewed focus across the diocese. Also, it is one of the three focuses of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (the other two are evangelism and care of creation). Clergy, lay leaders, diocesan convention delegates and vestry members should see this as an important educational and formational exercise. The diocese is encouraging all Episcopalians and friends interested to register for the summit by September 22nd to help in the planning team’s work.
My beloved, may the wind of the Spirit blow afresh and anew in your lives, offering renewed hope, renewal of spirit, and renewed optimism and vitality for our diocesan family as we celebrate the Feast of Holy Cross of Jesus (September 14). Jesus ascended the cross to make us better disciples. Taking the sin of the world he redeemed his beloved sisters and brothers. The cross was the most gruesome instrument of human suffering at that time, however, Jesus transformed it into the most powerful gift of love. In so doing, he left us a wholesome example of self-sacrifice and self-emptying for the common good. Our baptism calls us into an apostolic ministry; apostolic ministry is defined as ‘living beyond self”; it’s about the ‘holy other along the way; it is never about us always about the next generation and what we leave for them. Jesus embodies this lifestyle. Friends, I wish to reassure you of my love and faith in you, one that models the love Jesus shares with all of us. I continue to pray each day for your health and safety and that of your loved ones.
Feast of Holy Cross of Jesus
September 14, 2021