Dear Meadville Lombard students and alums,
These are uncertain and anxious times. What will come tomorrow is not a given. As a faith community, I feel certain that we can say two things. First, the normalcy of the world has been upended. Second, we are called to ministry in times such as these.
How long will it take for life to regain a sense of normalcy, no one call tell. But now we live in a moment in which we are urged to take precautions and make ready. In particular, in the hopes of slowing the spread of a virus that endangers lives, we are asked to engage in social distancing. It is hard not to feel a sense of panic and concern in this situation: to distance ourselves from others for our safety and that of others. This disrupts our lives, jeopardizes the employment of many, forces us to cancel programing, trigger overconsumption masked as readiness, feeds anxiety and distrust. And it remains true that as this illness spread through our planet, our collective future is rapidly changing. At the end of this journey—because this too shall pass—we will be relieved as our lives, however slowly, return to their routines. But we will also be in mourning. Death will have claimed some known to us and unknown alike. We will share the grief of others as they struggle to make sense of their new realities. Financial insecurity will deepen for many in our communities and across the world.
It hasn’t escaped me that this evolving situation is taken shape during the Christian Season of Lent. A season that started with a ritual of penance with the markings of ashes and that will end in a celebration of the power of new life emerging from death.
There is a lesson here to strengthen our spirits as we ready to minister to our communities for the foreseeable future. I wish to share with you a small portion of the Christian Scripture I have found of encouragement. According to the Christian Scriptures, shortly after being resurrected by the power of life, Jesus has various encounters with some of his followers. During one of these encounters narrated in the Gospel of John, Jesus is sharing a meal with his disciples when he turned to Simon Peter and asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, my Lord,” answered Simon Peter. “Then,” Jesus said to him, “feed my lambs.” Jesus proceeded to ask a second time and yet again a third time! “Simon son of John, do you love Me? … Then care for my lambs and follow me.”
We, too, are called to feed our flock. Today, this calls for imagination and creativity and it will be a lifeline to many. Many will be struggling with food insecurity, either because of loss of wages, health, limited transportation and mobility. As a faith community, while being mindful and careful not to unduly exposing ourselves to risk, we could:
As a community who care, we can engage in fierce advocacy on behalf of those most vulnerable:
There is a ministry to be done and more than usual. We may not be able to share in corporate worship nor be encouraged by the warm embrace of others. But we can still live into our calling fellowship.
Meadville Lombard COVID-19 Protocol, issued on March 11, 2020
Ministery at the End of the World (or) What Future Is This? Dr. Ortega's address during Fall Ingathering, August 2019