Bishop Wayne Smith and Bishop-elect Deon Johnson announce a fast from public worship services in the diocese until May 31, 2020
Please note: This article has been updated to extend our suspension of public worship until May 31.
“Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my mighty hand.”
- Isaiah 41:10
Dear Friends in Christ,
"Do not be afraid…” This has been an oft repeated refrain to the people of God throughout Holy Scripture, particularly in times of crisis and change. We now find ourselves in the midst of a time of great change, which challenges us to hear those words anew, as we seek to respond to the global COVID-19 outbreak. It can be easy to become anxious, worried or afraid with the constant barrage of the twenty-four-hour news cycle and social media.
As people of God, we profess that God’s love, found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is far greater than any threat or disease. In the midst of difficult and uncertain times we will not succumb to fear and anxiety, but will continue to love our neighbors as ourselves in new and different ways. Our faith does not require us to ignore or reject sound science or the directives of public health officials, but to adequately care for ourselves and one another.
Living into Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves, we will stand together as a diocese with our sisters and brothers in Christ who are most at risk from COVID-19. We therefore call on you to practice a fast from public worship in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us until May 31, 2020, at which time we will reevaluate the ongoing situation.
This is not an easy decision or one taken lightly. We are a diocese of connection and community, and we live out that connectedness most especially when we gather as community for worship. We encourage you to continue to be connected, to care for your neighbors as yourself, and to build community in a new ways for a season.
In the spirit of Christian hope let us pledge to connect by phone, internet and in small gatherings of family and friends and be good neighbors to those in our congregations and community who are most vulnerable. Let us pray together and pray for each other. Now more than ever we need to be bearers of God’s love, and carriers of Christ’s hope.
Look to our Diocesan web page and communications from the Bishop’s office for updates and creative, virtual, liturgical worship, stewardship and ministry resources. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Bishop’s office.
We invite you to use the following prayer throughout the seasons of Lent, Holy Week and Easter.
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us y our mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27). May we know Christ’s abiding peace and may we continue to be people of hope.
Ever faithfully, in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith,
10th Bishop of Missouri
The Rev. Deon Johnson,
Bishop-elect of Missouri