Jesus said to them,
“This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
Dear Beloved People of God of the Southeastern Iowa Synod,
Oh, how we hoped and prayed that the summer would slow the spread of COVID-19 and it might begin to fade from our lives. After the vaccinations became available, many have celebrated removing masks, gathering for poignant family reunions, traveling for vacations, and returning to in-person worship. Despite these late spring hopes, the pandemic remains and the Delta variant is now the prominent strain in the U.S. and Iowa. See CDC county tracking of community transmission rates.
The change in CDC guidelines and information from public health officials has left us with more decisions to make, plans, and policies to rethink. And we may again have to lament gatherings postponed, events canceled, and experiences missed. We are weary; pastors, councils, and COVID committees are all experiencing decision fatigue. The pandemic has made clear that communities of faith are filled with people that have differing opinions and desires. More than a year into this pandemic our grief is deep, our frustrations may be closer to the surface, and our patience is thin. We are human after all and, on occasion, our frustration, grief, and stress come out in ways that break down communication rather than build it up.
Please be gentle, patient, and kind with one another. Pray for your pastors, deacons, congregational staff, council leaders, and COVID-19 committees. Thank them for the marathon behind us and provide loving support for the marathon ahead.
I hope that we will all keep the love of each neighbor as our guide as we make decisions for the safety of all who gather including those who are vaccinated, who cannot be vaccinated, unvaccinated, children, individuals who are immune-compromised, etc. We are all beloved ones for whom Christ died.
I will do my best to continue providing updated resources or guides as they become available on the synod’s COVID-19 page as we move ahead together. You are not alone in making difficult decisions. Remember that what works in one congregation may not be what works well for the congregation down the road or in the next county. We have some experiences to rely on now and good resources to guide us forward. The church has not closed; instead, the body of Christ is navigating a pandemic. God is with us and continues to call us to love one another.
If you are eligible and you haven’t yet, please consider getting the vaccine. Find a provider and learn more about the vaccines.
I invite you to pause and join with me in a time of prayer for our church, our leaders, our weary world, all who navigate difficult decisions and disagreements. We pray for healing and hope in the midst of the pandemic, especially with the spread of the Delta variant, and for all who are ill in body, mind, and spirit, for all who care for the sick and suffering, for peace and reconciliation, for the beauty and suffering in creation, and for good courage as we journey forward not knowing what will come next but knowing that God’s love leads us and supports us.
And, now, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
Bishop Amy Current