As leaders in our beloved United Church of Christ, we write to speak a word of tender care to our congregations, our clergy, and our members.
We are sensitive to the grief and loss that many of you are experiencing. Most of us have never seen anything like this. The pandemic has interrupted our lives. Some have suffered the premature death of loved ones, while others live through and with severe pain and suffering. People are losing their jobs. Many of us have been placed under orders not to leave our homes and to shelter in place. In most of our communities, orders have been given to limit gathering in public spaces. This has been hard for all of us.
As leaders, we also bear witness to acts of profound kindness and creative ingenuity that remind us of the better angels within us. We are watching a Church prove itself to be incredibly adaptable as orders to stay at home have not ended our collective need even in times like these to give our thanks to God. Churches who not only have never gathered in a digital community, but who never thought they would need or want to, are doing just that – and experiencing something very profound and very meaningful. We have heard stories of whole families, spread across the country, being able to gather together for the same worship service via digital broadcast. That is such a meaningful gift the church has to offer in a season such as this.
We grieve deeply with you the losses that we are all living with; but we also celebrate a body of Christ that can adapt quickly to meet the emerging need. It is our hope and prayer that what we are learning about ourselves – about our capacity for grace, for hope, for change, for love beyond our walls – will enrich us long after this pandemic ends.
We strongly encourage churches to suspend your traditional ways of gathering to worship. Gathering to worship in this moment places our loved ones at risk. On the website of the denomination you can find resources to help you create new ways to worship as a sequestered community. Our Conferences are regularly offering networking opportunities so that you can share creative ideas and practical learnings.
Remember that we are a Christmas people, and that Jesus is incarnated in every act of love and kindness we extend to one another.
Remember that we are an Easter people and we know that God can reach us beyond all the barriers the world can create.
Remember that we are a Pentecost people who know that the Holy Spirit can revive us and who will be our strength in times of great distress.
We can do this. We are the Church, the body of the risen Christ. As leaders called to serve you, we pledge to you that we will continue to draw on every resource available to us that will help you through this season.
In the love of our blessed Redeemer, we remain as always your humble servants and your beloved covenant partners.
The Council of Conference Ministers
The Officers of the United Church of Christ
The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
The Rev. Traci Blackmon
The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson