EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF EASTERN OREGON                                                                                    LENT 2020


“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”     II Corinthians 4: 16-18
Dear Faithful Ones,

I write this morning quite simply to convey my love and support for you all as we negotiate this time of unsettling threat to life and normalcy. 

We have chosen the course of separating ourselves physically for a Sabbatical in order to protect ourselves and one another, and our neighbor. This is harder than I thought it might be. Even for an extreme introvert like myself, taking leave of gathering, especially from worship and all forms of fellowship, seems extreme. And it feels counter to what we should be doing as Servants of God in times of upheaval -  we should be present to one another, ministering healing, hope, and comfort. 

But the circumstances of this pandemic demand a different kind of selflessness. If we are to serve one another, we must separate ourselves. How counter intuitive this feels! Yet that is the demand of this time, and we must do our part in serving each other by a discipline none of us could have ever imagined. 

This is a time of sacrifice. We must give heed to the wise counsel of those who best serve the public trust and of those who in other nations are experiencing the impact of not taking seriously this threat - and separate ourselves for a season.

We began last week suggesting a Sabbatical of three weeks, knowing we would have to evaluate the situation at the end of March. But this is such a rapidly developing scenario that we will need to evaluate our decisions much more quickly. To that end, I am calling a virtual meeting of all clergy this Friday morning. We will spend time in prayer, in providing updates on local situations, in asking questions and sharing insights, and finally in making decisions about our common life moving into Holy Week and Easter. 

You undoubtedly know how the advice of public health and elected officials has changed in just days, from recommending groups of no more than 250, then 50, then 25, and now just 10 should be gathering. And as of this morning, the directive has pushed this mandate out to the middle of May. This has significant implications for our practice of life together. I will be exploring this with the clergy Friday, and I have every confidence we will identify creative ways of maintaining connections with one another within our Congregations and throughout the Diocese.

On a another point of necessity for our common life, I feel the strong need to remind us of our financial responsibility to our Congregations. Even though we may not be meeting together, the operation of our churches continues, and that needs funding. I am mindful of empty offering plates sitting unused each Sunday morning. This means one of the new practices for us is that each of us must take the responsibility to mail in our offering or pledge, or to find a way to electronically contribute to our Congregation. This needs to be a disciplined practice of our faith. Please, please do not neglect your responsibility to financially support your church and your ministry during this time. It is critical that we maintain this practice. After all, you do have the time and opportunity to make that happen over the next couple of months, right?

I will close with a portion of a prayer, and a most appropriate poem. But also with an invitation - if you have any question or concern about which I can be of help, please do not hesitate to contact me. Though I will be staying away from the office, our staff is continuing to work, and we are in constant contact, so you can access me anytime.
From John O’Donohue’s prayer, “A Morning Offering”, comes this refrain:

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

Peace and comfort and health to you all,


What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
--Lynn Ungar 3/11/20 - Reverend Lynn Ungar, Unitarian Universalist poet laureate...

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