A Pastoral Letter from Rev. Dr. William O. Gafkjen
Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod
November 5, 2020
Dear Partners in Mission,
The numbers of positive covid cases are rising at record rates across our territory. Positivity percentages are rising, too, as are the number of hospitalizations and deaths. We are exhausted, impatient, anxious.
And, yet, we need to keep on loving our neighbors and caring for ourselves and our communities by complying with health and safety protocols. Wear your mask. Keep distance. Do not gather in-person unless necessary and then only with strict adherence to appropriate protocols. Be kind and understanding of those, including deacons and pastors, who are not yet able or do not think it wise to participate in in-person worship or other gatherings. Reach out to folks you know who may be alone or isolated in some way. Pray for, reach out to, and support and thank health care staff. They carry a particularly heavy physical, spiritual, social, and mental load on our behalf. Think of them, along with others whom you love or who are vulnerable, when in your own weariness or defiance you are tempted to cheat.
With the support of the Synod Executive Committee, we have extended the suspension of synod staff travel at least through the end of the year. If your congregation has not yet begun in-person worship, please consider holding off for at least a few more weeks. If your congregation has been gathering in-person, it may be most prudent at this time to take a break from that and return to outdoor, virtual and/or live-streamed worship until the numbers and percentages of new positive covid cases drops significantly and consistently. It is crucial that we work with others in our communities to do our part in stemming the tide of this dreadful, deadly virus.
I pray for and give thanks for the pastors, deacons, and other ministers and leaders who are working so hard, learning new skills, reimagining ministry, and tending to God’s people, mostly at a distance. They are exhausted, impatient, and anxious, too. Please pray for and reach out to your community’s ministers and leaders to thank them. Offer them and their families a gift in appreciation and support. Pick up part of the ministry load and learn some new skills yourself in service to Christ, the congregation, and the neighbor. This is especially important as Advent and Christmas are on the horizon and we will all need to find creative ways to worship and celebrate under pandemic protocols. The way through this is together, bearing one another’s burdens, trusting the Spirit’s power and presence just enough to step out and do new things, to offer our gifts in new ways.
Mindful of the particular load this pandemic has placed on our rostered ministers, I am pleased to announce that the Synod Executive Committee has approved my recent request to set aside $25,000.00 from designated funds to provide small grants to deacons and pastors to help them tend to their own spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. More details about this and the process for applying will be forthcoming. In the meantime, I hope that your congregation will consider a matching gift to your ministry leader(s) and/or some additional time off for rest and renewal.
Finally, beloved of God, I am grateful for you. I pray for you. As God has led God’s people of every age through every sort of wilderness imaginable, God will lead us through this one.
“Now to the One who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Peace be with you,
The Rev. Dr. William O. Gafkjen, Bishop