The New Life in Christ – An Easter Message from Right Rev. Marc Andrus

12 I appeal to you, therefore, brothers and sisters,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual[b] worship. Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Dear Relations in the Beloved Community, 

I am writing you as we approach Holy Week and Easter to both thank you and encourage you. As I hope you have heard me say, I will always be grateful for the remarkable witness you have given in servant leadership, within your congregations, and within the wider community of the Bay Area during this time of pandemic. You have kept many safe, you have saved people from unnecessary deaths. 

“This time of pandemic,” though, has not passed. Would that the graph of the pandemic’s course could be confidently expected to move smoothly down to a normal state. Two factors make such a smooth course to normalcy less than certain: human behavior and the biology of the virus. On the one hand, we all are experiencing a double pull in our hearts and minds. We see more and more people being vaccinated, we see the tiers moving into safer zones, and we see more and more people moving about in ways that we would have agreed even a few weeks ago were unsafe. We are also feeling the intense longing to be back in the presence of friends, co-workers, and those who simply move through the same social space as we do. And we may be feeling the ill effects of isolation – depression in its many manifestations. 

With respect to the biology of the virus, the variants are presenting alarming dangers, even within a vaccinated population. 

In light of the above, and while there is still a bit of time, I write to urge you to stay on the course which I must describe as holy. As I readily acknowledge, I cannot prohibit you, in most cases, from gathering in our beloved church buildings for worship, following the guidelines established by county authorities. Rather, I am simply asking you to hold back. If you have planned indoor worship for Holy Week and Easter, please reconsider. Worship outdoors, on your own church grounds, or in parks or other convenient gathering spaces is not only appropriate for Easter celebrations, it is about 20 times safer than indoor worship. 

And moving beyond Easter, my request to you is equally simple, though not easy, I realize —  please refrain from indoor worship until the beginning of June. If Covid-19 cases continue to decline, and the rollout of vaccinations continues at its current pace or even better, then I will be among the first to say, “Blessings on you as you regather.” In the meantime, if you chose to celebrate the Eucharist with your congregations outdoors, please refrain from using a common cup. Consecration in real-time is acceptable; however, please follow the face-covering guidelines and other social distancing protocols outlined on Page 21 of the following document from Ministry Matters: Click here for the English version, Click here for Spanish. Please also keep all gatherings that include singing, chanting, or use of wind instruments outdoors-only.

I chose the passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans for the epigram for this Pastoral Letter in order to say that I feel that Paul has described the actual life of the Diocese of California during the pandemic thus far – you have lived in accord with the mind of Christ, sacrificing for the safety of all. As Paul would also say, “Let us run with patience the race.”

With my blessings, 

Holy Week Message (2021) from Rev. Molly Haws

March 2021

A short story from my past, around 15 years ago:

“So, how come we go up and stand around the altar at this point?” I asked them. “What’s that about?” The elder of the group spoke up: Because there’s not too many of us, and there’s room for all of us to come up and stand. 

I knew that Elise was smart and thoughtful and engaged, but still, her answer was much more liturgically astute than I was expecting from a not-quite-eight-year-old.

“Okay, so what makes us want to come up and stand around the altar?” I asked. “What are we doing?” As the group was contemplating and conferring, one of the four-year-olds piped up, “Because God is in the middle.” 

This exchange used to enter my head—quietly, without drawing attention to itself—every time we gathered around the altar for communion at Good Shepherd. Because God is in the middle.

Six months after I began serving Good Shepherd as long-term supply priest, we suddenly could no longer gather to worship at 9th and Hearst in Berkeley. How could we possibly gather around with God in the middle when we couldn’t even be in the same room together? 

And yet, we did, and we do.

We adapted to environmental changes while remaining true to who we are. When there was no way for us to be together, we found a way. When we couldn’t find a way, we made a way. We remembered and reminded one another that we are nimble, creative, capable of surprising ourselves. We continue to be a circle with God in the middle, lifting our hearts and voices in song and prayer, in grief and in wonder, a circle made of faith-in-action, because this is who we are.

My hope for this year is that we shall continue creating and re-creating, leaning into the challenges that arise, daring to rejoice and defying the devil.

What is it that you hope for?

Yours by grace,