Beloved in Christ Jesus,
Dear ones, I think we all can agree that the coronavirus has changed us. Personally, I cannot count the times in recent weeks, that I have spent in prayer for all of God’s people. I lay it before God and ask for direction. I know you are praying fervently also for safety, wisdom and guidance.
Each day, several members of our leadership team tune in to hear what Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton say regarding the health and economic concerns that have changed the way we move and live in our world. We know you pay attention to these briefings, along with those from the president and the Centers for Disease Control. All of us are eager to get back to life the way we knew it. Or should I say we are awaiting the day when we can start living into the “new normal”? It is an inescapable fact that things will be different, but “different” does not necessarily equal “bad.”
In the midst of it all, we must hold true to our mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, while practicing our love of God, neighbor and, dare I say, self. You have done a marvelous job adapting to new realities. We have a corporate responsibility to care for others including our families, colleagues and people in need. We have a personal responsibility to be safe and cautious when the time comes that we can interact with one another and return to our worshiping communities.
As we prepare for that time, I have asked a group of pastors and laity to help lead us into our new reality. Some of the folks on this team had begun to do this kind of thinking and planning in their local churches. They will help cast a vision and roll out best practices for local churches, districts and our conference. They are hard at work and are vetting their first draft with some focus groups, health care workers and legal counsel. For now, I believe it is wise to extend my strong encouragement not to hold public worship until after May 3. You will hear from me soon about next steps.
Over these last several weeks, I have shared the experience of standing in an empty sanctuary, preaching the gospel to a camera or cellphone, or recording a sermon or message to use in a local church. I long for the day to preach in a room full of people eager to receive Jesus into their hearts, to hear the word and sing praises to God. Until that time comes, I ask that you join me in practicing patience as we move into this new reality.
Friends, we are close. How we take these next steps is very important for the safety of all of God’s people. Thank you for all you have done, for what you are doing now and for what you will do in the very near future. I remain,
Yours in the service of Christ Jesus,
+Bishop Gregory V. Palmer