IMPORTANT NEWS: Effective today CTR will be pausing all public gatherings at the church – Sunday mornings included. For the moment there is no stated date of resuming a normal schedule; I plan to re-evaluate this each week in consultation with our bishop, clergy, core staff, and wardens or vestry. This is not a decision taken in panic but in the conviction that we want to be good neighbors and that now is the best moment to try to limit the spread of the virus in hopes that warmer weather will slow it down significantly, etc. Please read the (longish) letter below about all of this.
Dear Christ the Redeemer Family,
In a very real sense in this particular Lenten season some of the lessons that Lent is meant to teach us have been put front and center before us and our society: we are mortal, finite, and have limits. Indeed, despite our many and varied amazing accomplishments as a species, we are still, nonetheless, susceptible.
For many this is, understandably, a very anxious moment. What will happen is difficult to predict, and so many things are different so quickly – the NBA cancelling its season, March Madness was going to be played to empty arenas but now has been cancelled, spring baseball is in limbo, the morning commute traffic is light, shops are empty, and etc. and etc. This is not life as we have become accustomed to it, and it pushes uncomfortable truths onto the forefront. Indeed, one could argue that denial of our mortality is one of the core, if unspoken, drivers of Western culture over these past few hundred years.
In our God’s goodness we are also invited to remember and give witness that Lent is not an end in itself but is rather a preparation for the celebration of the new life accomplished by our Lord Jesus through his resurrection. We are the people who do not fear death, who are free to love and serve our neighbors, and who have reason to be a non-anxious presence in times of great uncertainty and anxiety.
Why, then, are we pausing on public gatherings?
Three key reasons:
1. This is the best way to be a good neighbor in this moment. As I said in the summary above this letter, this is not a decision taken in panic but in the conviction that we want to be good neighbors and that now is the best moment to try to limit the spread of the virus in hopes that warmer weather will slow it down significantly, etc. This decision does, to be sure, feel a bit surreal to me – it is new territory – but has been taken after consultation with our Bishop, other canons, our clergy and core staff at CTR, and our vestry wardens.
2. We are wonderfully multi-generational at CTR and want to be careful. The last several winters, even without COVID-19, we have had a significant occurrence of respiratory illness amongst our members, many of them a bit older, and we also have people with compromised immune systems.
3. The way in which Christians have courageously grabbed moments such as this for Jesus’ glory in the past was primarily by choosing to love those who were ill among their neighbors, sometimes even when their very relatives were putting them out to die. In other words, while of course our gathering for worship and teaching and prayer and fellowship is crucial, and while we very much look forward to what we hope will be a timely return to our regular schedule, the courage and hope of our faith shine most brightly in such a time as this when we are amongst our neighbors and friends, loving them in the name of Jesus. This decision does not represent some sort of lack of faith.
How are we going to handle this?
One thing I learned as a church planter was that disruptions will come, and when they do it is an opportunity to “Romans 8” the moment.
Romans 8 gives us the amazing promise that God works all things together for good – meaning that in spite of what evil may occur, God is present with us and works in the midst of it all to bring about good that very likely perhaps otherwise would not have been.
A few ways we are going to try – by God’s grace and Spirit – to “Romans 8” this moment are these:
1. Sunday morning at 8.45 and 11 we will have two simple worship services on Facebook Live.
You can join in HERE. Feel free to share this with friends. This is a good time to join together as a family and discuss the teaching and pray together, or to invite a neighbor over to join you. There are stories of Christians in Japan finding friends or neighbors joining them who otherwise had never been willing to go into a church…
2. Clergy and lay leaders will be proactively connecting with every family in our church during this time to bring prayer, encouragement and material support in any way we can. If you are ill or alone or if you have special needs in this time, please let us know. Also, If you would like to have an active role in helping us check in on each other and our neighbors in this time, please email Olivia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Give Bishop Andrew’s excellent letter to us all a good, careful read, especially the section on “Practical Ways to Love our Neighbor”. View Bishop Andrew’s Letter Here. It is really helpful.
4. Keep your devotional life consistent. This is a great time to get into your Book of Common Prayer, into the Psalms – the heart-cry of God’s people – into the morning and evening offices. But by all means be in your Bible and pouring your heart out to our God, as well as also stopping to listen to him and his Spirit. You can find the daily office here.
5. Keep giving to CTR (both to Forming and Sending Campaign and to the General Operating Budget), as an act of faith and an investment in God’s Kingdom being manifest here on earth. Our society has already and will continue to experience real economic pain in this season. Peoples’ savings and their income have been and will be affected. CTR is in a strong financial position thanks to your generosity, but CTR is not immune to these same economic risks. So, please continue your faithful giving. There is much that our Lord Jesus is doing in and through us and is planning to do, and there is much we have planned for our expanded campus. Let’s keep the momentum and keep rolling on. We have had some good movement lately in the permitting and design process for the new construction. Give online if at all possible through our website. If you’re not able to give online, please mail checks to the office at 85 Constitution Lane, Suite 2B, Danvers, MA 01923.
Dear friends in Christ, hold onto what is true about who our God is and who we are in him:
- “We who are in Christ “have [already] died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3, ESV
- And “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, ESV
- And “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4–7, ESV
Let us have no fear, but rather hold fast to our hope in Jesus – a clear and real and definable hope based on the reality of Jesus Christ, as we pray in a part of the Great Litany:
By the mystery of your holy incarnation; by your holy nativity and submission to the Law; by your baptism, fasting, and temptation,
Good Lord, deliver us.
By your agony and bloody sweat; by your cross and passion; by your precious death and burial,
Good Lord, deliver us.
By your glorious resurrection and ascension; by the sending of your Holy Spirit; by your heavenly intercession; and by your coming again in power and great glory,
Good Lord, deliver us.
In all times of tribulation; in all times of prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,
Good Lord, deliver us.
Finally, here are some timely prayers from the supplemental prayers in our Book of Common Prayer:
44. in times of social conflict or distress
Increase, O God, the spirit of neighborliness among us, that in peril we may uphold one another, in suffering tend to one another, and in homelessness, loneliness, or exile befriend one another. Grant us brave and enduring hearts that we may strengthen one another, until the disciplines and testing of these days are ended, and you again give peace in our time; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
80. for trustfulness in times of worry and anxiety
Most loving Father, you will us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on the One who cares for us. Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested unto us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
82. for quiet confidence
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
95. in times of suffering or weakness
Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: I hold up all my weakness to your strength, my failure to your faithfulness, my sinfulness to your perfection, my loneliness to your compassion, my little pains to your great agony on the Cross. I pray that you will cleanse me, strengthen me, guide me, so that in all ways my life may be lived as you would have it lived, without cowardice and for you alone. Show me how to live in true humility, true contrition, and true love. Amen.
96. for union with Christ Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O good Jesus, hear me. Within thy wounds hide me. Permit me not to be separated from thee. From the wicked foe defend me. In the hour of my death call me, and bid me come to thee, that with thy saints I may praise thee for ever and ever. Amen.
106. for spiritual communion
Dear Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to possess you within my soul. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you, together with all your faithful people [gathered around every altar of your Church], and I embrace you with all the affections of my soul. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.
May Jesus Christ be praised,