Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It was only three weeks ago that our world began to change dramatically, and what seemed like a brief temporary measure now is likely to go on for much longer. With Governor Hogan’s recent stay-at-home order and the Bishop’s instructions to the churches, this crisis has meant that even the smallest gatherings at our church will not take place. This has been a disruption in our lives like few we have experienced. There is a lot of fear and anxiety going around, but as with any challenge, there is an opportunity to produce some good.
This will not be an easy time. But as people of faith we were never promised an easy time, only that whatever the road we would have to walk down, God would be with us. And in that recognition of the solidarity of God, we have our hope.
Some of our older members may remember the sacrifices caused by the Second World War: the scrap metal drives, the victory gardens, the rubber rationing. Those sacrifices forged a generation committed to service, civic duty, and the best virtues we as a nation can display.
We are in a time of crisis not seen since those days and in a time that demands of us sacrifices on a level, and in some cases beyond, those of WWII. For we are being called to sacrifice our social lives, our work lives, our economic lives, and, in many ways, the world we had become accustomed to. But we are being called to make this sacrifice in order to save as many lives as possible from the scourges of a hitherto unknown virus that wreaks havoc on the most vulnerable among us.
Jesus taught us, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” By sacrificing our social, work, economic, and communal lives, we demonstrate a powerful love—a love that Jesus calls us to share. That does not mean it will be easy; doing the right thing rarely is. But it means that there is some good that may yet emerge from the present crisis: a new generation that has learned the virtues of self-sacrifice, civic responsibility, and commitment to protecting the “least of these.”
In the meantime, we will do the best we can to maintain community in this difficult time. We continue to have worship services you can access online or by making a telephone call. You can sign up to have bread delivered for our love feast in lieu of communion. And we’re making adjustments to having palms for Palm Sunday and offering ways to participate in our Palm Sunday passion play.
I remain incredibly proud of the way this community has taken action to protect the most vulnerable among us and has been willing to try new ways of being in community, from online programming, to Zoom meetings, to more frequently checking in with one another by telephone. This community has modeled this self-sacrificial love in a way that declares the power of the Gospel to a broken and hurting world.
With continued prayers for you, our community, our nation, and our world, I remain
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Mark Schaefer
Pastor, Cheltenham UMC