Dear Partners in Mission:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
One of my jobs in high school was working as a summer lifeguard. In many ways, this work was like that of a shepherd. A job that swings between pendulums of boredom to intense activity. The shepherd must be ready to act to protect the sheep, yet also be able to maintain attention through long periods where not much is happening. Our ministry in the time of COVID-19 also reflects this reality when the status quo is disrupted and we must act quickly to bring new guidance or attention to important issues. This happened to us in NT-NL last week on Monday afternoon when the Governor of Texas did not renew stay at home. We quickly assessed the situation for our Texas congregations, built on our previous guidance, and acted quickly to get you new information in English and Spanish. I am grateful for your synod staff that works so diligently and quickly to communicate to you in many ways.
As we go forward, we know many of our future events are going to be impacted by this pandemic. As we look ahead to 2021 and the potential ELCA Youth Gathering in Minneapolis, I wanted to go to our source for information about the gathering and the current plans around the gathering. The video here will answer some questions, as will scheduled Zoom gatherings on May 12th and 14th. Please watch this video and join us for one of those gatherings.
Your Mission Endowment Fund (MEF) is also responding to support our communities by establishing an emergency relief fund for congregations. Details about this fund will be sent soon, and I am grateful for the leadership of the MEF, under director Ms. Linda Ness, and their quick response to provide hope for congregations and leaders if a financial emergency arises as a result of COVID-19. Please note these funds will be available after other resources are exhausted or unavailable and will be focused on care for our congregational leaders and families.
Each week during this challenging time brings new information, new learning, and new opportunities. This is not a sprint but a marathon. And like faithful shepherds who are ever watchful, we are to be alert and awake, ready to act. In each situation, the goal is the same: to assess the situation, analyze resources, focus on care for followers, and be prepared to act quickly so that we can care for the most vulnerable in our midst. And you, our leaders, continue to do so faithfully.
However, it must also be noted that constant vigilance takes a toll, marathon runners do not exhaust themselves in the first miles, and that the Sabbath was instituted for a reason. The greatest news of all is that our Good Shepherd watches over us faithfully and constantly. As such, we human shepherds also can and should take rest. There is a great story, perhaps apocryphal, that Pope John XXIII would each night pray, “I’ve done my best I could in your service this day, Oh Lord. I’m going to bed. It’s your church. Take care of it!”
If a shepherd with as much responsibility as a pope can take rest, so can we. So God bless you shepherds of families, youth, aged adults, and all the others in your care. Be strong and take heart, for the Good Shepherd watches over you and is with you.
In Mission Together,