“Since it is by God’s mercy that we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” —2 Corinthians 4:1
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ!
We begin as always giving thanks to the God of life who continues to sustain and redeem us in the midst of all trials and injustice.
It has been a month since we shared Easter greetings in the hope of the power of the Resurrection in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. This pastoral letter comes as the pandemic continues on its path of destruction and death, even as in some places the spread has abated and restrictions on contact are being eased, in still other places we are told the worse is yet to come.
The toll on human life has been devastating and heartbreaking. The situation has revealed for all to see and force us to acknowledge the death-dealing conditions of inequality, of racial, gender, social, economic, and ecological injustice that pre-existed COVID-19 and which the pandemic has made fatally worse. A health crisis in its own right, the pandemic now forces us to see the scandalous world described in the Accra Confession (2004) and to see that God is leading us to join in transforming the world.
We know that we live in a world fallen among thieves (John 10:10). We know that in biblical terms this is a crisis, a moment of judgment, requiring a fundamental life or death decision.
And yet, by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart!
We know we have been given a ministry. We, as are all Christians and all people, to join with God as God reconciles the world to God.
Being part of the WCRC as a global Christian koinonia has allowed us through God’s grace to see and appreciate and share with each other the global dimension of this pandemic as each church lives intensely the situation in each specific context. Even as restrictions have led to the suspension of church services in our buildings there has been an explosion of outreach and creativity and service virtually. Many of our churches with others have taken the lead in modeling responsible physical distancing, while lifting up responsible social solidarity, contact, support, and service.
The most vulnerable have been afflicted not only by the virus but by the response which has left millions upon millions without livelihood and repressed by authoritarian measures that affect the poorest and most unprotected.
We feel as a family that we are not alone. We live in God’s creation. We have been so thankful for the assurances of prayer and support that have been so freely circulating among and between our WCRC family in each region. We give thanks for those who have reached out to those most strongly hit and most vulnerable. As we respond to each other and to all our neighbours and with all the partners that God provides, we know in this ministry of reconciliation we are one body, and as Paul reminds so powerfully in 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one member rejoices, we all rejoice.”
President Najla Kassab and I want to particularly reach out at this time to pledge our prayers and concern for your church as we face this present moment so that we may face it together upheld by the Spirit of the living God and as a koinonia called to communion and committed to justice.
Even though we have not been able to hold our scheduled Executive Committee meeting this May, and the Secretariat in Hannover, Germany, has moved to working from home, the WCRC continues to keep in close contact with its members and ecumenical partners and live out the priorities of the our strategic plan in new and unexpected ways.
We have refocused our small but important Reformed Partnership Fund to support our members’ efforts to respond to the pandemic. We will continue to emphasize sharing emergency resources as long as the funds generously provide by La Tavola Valdese, through the Otto per Mille program, allow us to do so.
Together with our regions we will be reaching out to all our members to participate in a global exercise of discernment, drawing on the theological resources and biblical perspective of the Reformed and United and Uniting church traditions to read the signs of the time and embrace our call as a confessing, witnessing, and reforming global koinonia.
We wish to accompany and support each other in both the pastoral and prophetic ministry to which God has called the church.
For all of us, maintaining strong communication and mutual support through prayer and action is essential to this ministry God has given. Please, through your region or directly with the Secretariat, be in touch to share your stories as all seek to respond faithfully. We are sharing here, again, links to the latest issue of Reformed Communiqué and the 2019 Annual Report as we just learned that mail to many members has been disrupted due to the pandemic.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 7 shares Paul’s strong words confronting affliction:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. …Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.
And so, without losing heart, we hear the summons in this global kairos from Micah 6:8: “You know, O mortal, what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
Grace and peace to us all in the power of resurrection in times such as these.