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Update From Bishop Gonia

Turn, O Lord! How long?
   Have compassion on your servants!
 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
   so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
(Psalm 90)
These words from Psalm 90 seem fitting as we live into a time of utter disorientation, personally and societally. The world we knew last week is not the world to which we awoke this morning, and next week’s world may feel light years from todays. Feeling disoriented, asking “how long?” and pleading for compassion are all appropriate responses! Yet as the Psalm goes on to remind us, our lament is not the whole story. Amid any and all disorientation, the one consistent factor is God’s steadfast love. That is solid and unchanging. Which means there is still reason to rejoice and be glad.
As part of our conversations about Church Becoming, I’ve been giving lots of thought to what needs reframing in our life as Christ’s Church for the sake of vital ministry and witness to the gospel. What if this experience of disorientation becomes a catalyst for reframing key understandings about WHO we are as Christ Church, WHY we do what we do as Christ’s Church, and HOW we live and engage the world as Christ’s Church? Trusting that nothing is wasted in God’s economy, this time of disorientation may be a powerful tool for the Spirit’s innovation in our life as the church, inviting us to live and think in ways we never imagined.
Given the recent CDC statement about what is needed to contain the spread of COVID 19, my recommendation to Rocky Mountain Synod congregations about suspending public in-person worship, events and meetings extends to May 10. That is to say, I strongly suggest that congregations plan for alternative worship and ministry plans for the next eight weeks. Obviously, if the situation changes for the better, this can be re-evaluated.
The question has arisen about how congregations who are not meeting in person should handle the celebration of Holy Communion. In the recent document posted on the ELCA website, "Worship in the time of public health concerns: Covid-19/coronavirus" , the following guidance is given: In cases of virtual worship gatherings, the sacrament of Holy Communion is not to be celebrated. “The Use of the Means of Grace” reminds us that Holy Communion takes place in the assembly (Principle 39). Even in times when a community cannot gather to share the sacrament, Jesus shows up, and we are still part of the body of Christ. Consider how to honor the body of Christ in your virtual community.
Many are asking for conversation about the adequacy of this guideline under our current circumstances and wondering if some other options might be considered. Bishop Eaton has asked the ELCA worship staff to explore this more fully and to offer their perspective. As we await that response, I encourage congregations worshipping virtually to utilize the rich resources of our liturgies and tradition, including services of the Word, to nurture faith life during Lent. Once we have heard from the ELCA worship team, I will convene a ZOOM conversation about this topic so we can have conversation together, hopefully before Holy Week and Easter.
I strongly encourage all rostered ministers to participate in your conference’s weekly ZOOM check-in. This is not only a time for sharing gratitude, anxieties, opportunities and needs, it allows the Office of the Bishop to share and receive vital information for the sake of our life together.
If you or anyone in your congregation/ministry is diagnosed with COVID 19, it would be very helpful for the Office of the Bishop to know.
The Synod Council will be meeting on Tuesday evening to consider options for our upcoming Synod Assembly. Stay tuned for more information.
The Synod Council Executive Committee will meet on Wednesday to consider the changes and contingencies necessary given current circumstances. We will continue to share update with you via Leadership Link and eConnection.
THANK YOU for your powerful ministry during these extraordinary, disorienting times. May the Spirit continue to reform and reframe us together, so that we might more fully become the church most needed for the life of the world.
In Faith,
Bishop Jim

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