My beloved family in Christ across Wisconsin, know that I am praying for you. We are going through an extraordinary time. It is a time of anxiety and worry, a time of fear and uncertainty, and a time of testing for our faith. But our God is good, our God is with us, and our God loves us.
In the best of times, we are stronger together. It is right and good that we worship together, that we pray together, study together, work together, and minister together. But there are times such as these where we are most faithful when we care for each other from a distance. Following the example of Jesus, this Lenten time may be one where we must withdraw and be by ourselves more. We are in a time when it is inadvisable to gather together for worship. In fact, we are strongly suggesting that we refrain from publicly open worship services minimally until April 5, Palm Sunday. It may mean we need to suspend worship this year through Easter. While this is difficult and painful, it is also a glorious opportunity to show our creativity and commitment. The White House, the Center for Disease Control, our state government and health care officials are asking that we not gather in groups larger than ten members for at least the next two weeks. Some reports are saying we shouldn’t gather in groups of 50 or more for at least eight weeks. Regardless the parameters of the advice, we are in a time of necessary voluntary separation and face-to-face isolation.
But this in no way means we cannot be in ministry with each other. We are blessed with phones, email, computers, tablets, and multiple technologies to allow communication across distance. We can form prayer chains. We can create online devotion and worship circles. We can keep in contact with the most vulnerable in our faith communities and develop healthy and faithful ways to meet their needs and offer them care. We can join streaming worship services broadcast without congregations physically present, and we can engage in family devotions and worship. This is indeed a challenging time, but God is with us right where we are. This is a critical time for us to care as much about as many as we possibly can! We are in ministry through our prayers, our phone calls, our emails, and our video chats. Congregational leaders can still connect for ministry meetings in a variety of ways. It is too easy to be swept away by all we cannot do; let us make a faith commitment to focus on what we CAN do. Please continue to support the ministry of your congregation in whatever possible ways you can.
The Wisconsin Conference is cancelling or postponing all in person meetings, gatherings and events for a minimum of the next four weeks. We will announce further cancellations and postponements, if needed. We will regularly post updates and resources on our website to help local congregations navigate this difficult time, and to support you in your ministry. Conference and district staff can help you set up Zoom video meetings if that would be helpful. We will do all in our power to help you do effective ministry in the weeks to come.
I want you all to know how much I appreciate your leadership and your faithfulness in this pandemic time. It is scary, especially for the most vulnerable among us. There are no clear or easy answers. We do not know how long we must take exceptional precautions. We do not know when the dangers will pass. What we do know is that we have God, we have each other, and we have a faith that will keep us strong through even the greatest challenges.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Aurora Towne was baptized on the first Sunday of March.