Finding Ways to Support Congregations
March 25, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who accompanies us all our life long. I have realized that most of our communications have been to the clergy, but I also want to update you on a number of things that are presently afoot in the diocese.
Dickens famously said that it was the best of times and the worst of times. In frustrating, anxious, and constrained circumstances, you all have risen to the occasion remarkably (but not surprisingly!). We have a plethora of options to worship in the different missions and parishes, through which, most importantly, worship of our Lord continues throughout this diocese. I have noted the creativity in these offerings, in congregations large and small, urban, suburban, and rural. Also, the clergy are doing yeoman’s work keeping in touch with their flocks through phone calls and pastoral networks. To be sure, there have been postponements of events like clergy conference and the 125th celebration, but we are finding other ways to carry on: a webinar about stewardship, an online clergy reading group, and a resurgence of interest in that backbone of Anglican spirituality, morning and evening prayer.
We at the diocese have been working hard to find ways to support congregations across these difficult months. We have been able to forgive the diocesan assessment for April. We have cut our own budget to the bone to have funds to aid missions, and we are developing a bridge fund for parishes in difficult financial straits. We will make it across together, by the grace of God. I cannot say when we will be able once more to pray in person and together in our churches, but it will be as soon as safely and prudently possible.
I blanched at the idea of suspending worship, and yet again at the prospect of being shuttered for Easter! But we are doing what must be done in a hard and anomalous hour. I was interested to hear that the Pope had declared that Easter devotions and processions could be celebrated on Holy Cross Day for Roman Catholics! Well, I am not the Pope and we aren’t going to do that exactly! But we believe that every Sunday is a little Easter, and I invite parishes, if they wish, to select a Sunday in the fall on which to use the lections for the feast of the Resurrection (the liturgical equivalent of Christmas in July!) Odd yes, but perhaps a reminder that through every season of our lives together, Jesus is indeed risen and reigns, making intercession for us with the Father, to whom, with the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. George R. Sumner Bishop of Dallas