Dear People of God,
As I sat down to write this letter to you, one of the best-known opening lines of a novel came to mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I’m sure you recognize that line from the opening chapter of Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Most of us have not lived through what many are saying about our current circumstances, describing them as the “worst of times.” We are indeed living in unusual and troubling times. On the other hand, in the midst of a pandemic and political unrest, many good things are happening. We see the best of human nature being revealed in many ways—medical personnel, caregivers, teachers, and many others who give sacrificially of themselves and their resources. Many of them are quite literally putting their lives on the line. Others are speaking out against injustice and racism, calling our nation to account for how we treat the vulnerable and marginalized.
Taking a more microcosmic view, since our founding in 1990, Good Samaritan Episcopal Church has never endured an extended period of time when we could not meet in person for worship, formation, meetings, and fellowship. When the bishop ordered the shutdown of all church buildings in mid-March, I put a sign on the door of the building stating, “The building is closed.” The words were chosen intentionally, because we have been operating under the assumption that although the building is closed, the Church is not!
I am writing to give you a brief update on how we have stepped into being The Church since March 15. As a member of the parish, I ask you to set aside a few minutes to read this entire letter and the attachments. It’s an occasion to celebrate and give thanks for God’s work in and through us, and also to prayerfully consider ways you can continue to support and be engaged in the ministry of this parish.
While most of what you read below involves events, activities, and doing the business of the Church, these things are not what have been most significant in our parish life over the past few months. I’ve observed a renewed commitment to communal prayer, a real hunger for Christian fellowship and the Sacraments, and a desire to grow deeper in faith. Folks have reached out to ask how they can serve and assist those in our parish who might need help. Our leaders have approached the challenges caused by the pandemic with energy, creativity, and passion. Conversations in small groups and Bible studies have been rich, with a healthy, life-giving vulnerability.
Jesus told us that he would build his Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The Spirit of God has been, and is, at work among us doing just that: building up the Church and bringing about more fully God’s kingdom of love, justice, and peace–not only in us, but in our community. Not even a pandemic can prevail against the in-breaking of God’s kingdom among us.
Since this pandemic began, I have thought often about Winston Churchill’s speeches to the United Kingdom during World War II. At a very dark time during the war, he gave a critical speech in which he urged his fellow citizens to resist despair and stay strong. He ended that speech by saying, “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”
I do believe that this can be one of our finest hours as the people of God known as Good Samaritan Episcopal Church. God is with us and will give us what we need to do the work he has given us to do, and to be the people he has called us to be.