A Pastoral Letter on the Regathering of Congregations

A MESSAGE FROM BISHOP SUTTON

A Pastoral Letter on the Regathering of Congregations

June 9, 2020

Dear Members of the Diocese of Maryland,As state and county restrictions have begun to ease and as some of our congregations begin regathering under our diocesan phased guidelines, I want to thank you for the creative ways you have kept worship services going, provided pastoral connections with one another, and maintained important social justice ministries such as food pantries.

I want you to remember that regathering will look different for every single congregation and ministry for a variety of reasons. Some will be due to the difference in local restrictions and testing capacity. Some will be because of the restrictions your church’s architecture presents. Some will be based on the comfort level of congregants as well as the clergy who lead them, many of whom are also in a high-risk health category. So, I want to offer a few words of pastoral advice as each congregation and each of us individually consider what regathering will look and feel like:

Stay calm. Emotions are high and we are all coping in different ways. Our clergy are feeling that pressure just like everyone else. If the pressure of regathering is too much on your leadership, please wait until that pressure subsides sufficiently. I don’t want any of you to feel pressured to regather! Our physical and emotional health are paramount during this difficult time which will remain with us for a while. Clergy need a break and need to still take vacation time this summer. Utilize our cathedral service as need be, even once a month if that helps take the pressure off your own priest or deacon.

Stay connected. Thanks to Zoom, Facebook and other digital platforms (including the good old telephone), we are able to continue to stay connected. So continue to pray for one another. Continue to participate in worship as best you are able. Reach out to neighbors, call people whom you haven’t spoken with in a while, and continue to connect with your governmental leaders on issues of importance.

Stay church. Remember, the church never closed. Our buildings have been closed for public gatherings, but the church is really you, the people, living out your baptismal vows. Our community of love is not defined by bricks and mortar. It is our capacity and passion to pray, to connect, to give, and to speak out that defines who we are as a church.

Friends, we will get through this. It may take a while, but God’s presence and God’s love is steadfast. This is a resurrection moment for us – not a death – and God’s grace is abundant. We need to allow ourselves the space to receive that grace as a salve for the pressures that weigh upon us. So, wait to regather only when you are ready. I have your back and we in diocesan leadership want to help guide you, not force you. We have “guidelines” for a reason, rather than policy or mandate. Trust yourself and your leadership.

Stay calm. Stay connected. Stay church!

+Eugene

The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

Bishop Sutton’s Statement on the Current Crisis

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We are enduring a spring of the deadly outbreaks of three viruses: Covid-19, racism and violence. We’re suffering from over 100,000 deaths of the coronavirus as of today, but are also becoming increasingly aware of the thousands of “silent deaths” of predominantly black and brown persons from a violent society that has never overcome its original sins of white privilege and racism. These sins have shown their face in the past few weeks in the outrageous violent deaths of unarmed black persons, as well as in several other racially fueled and demeaning incidents across our nation. People of good will all over the world are protesting; they are variously ashamed, enraged, and fearful of an uncertain future.

How did we get here?

We are a people of faith. We follow in the footsteps of one who was a member of a subjugated race in a powerful empire, unjustly accused, brutally tortured, and who suffered a grisly death at the hands of political and religious leaders who colluded to prevent his message of peace, justice and salvation from spreading. The world in which we live today is not too different from the world for which our Savior gave his life.

We worship a merciful and compassionate God, who was made manifest to us in the face of Jesus the Christ. After his resurrection, facing the very ones who betrayed him only a few days before, the first words out of his mouth were, “Peace be with you.” Ever since, his followers have vowed to seek and serve Christ in the face of every human being.

More than fifty years after the dream of Martin Luther King for a just, multiracial society of a free people living in peace, where do we go from here?

Here are a few resources to get you started. I invite you to prayerfully and carefully read the excellent statement of the Diocese of Maryland’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the present racial crisis that we’re facing. I also invite you to view and listen to my recent dialogue on racial trauma with a white member of the diocese as we try to demonstrate how to have civil and respectful conversations about race in America.

Watch an interview with our diocesan urban missioner, the Rev. Ramelle McCall and listen to other voices from across the diocese on our growing list of sermons and statements.

Representing the diocese, Bishop Ihloff and I will be gathering later this week with other religious leaders in Baltimore to make a public common outdoor witness for justice and peace in this troubling time. Look for more details to come as they unfold, and how you may be able to support this witness.

The Diocesan Truth and Reconciliation Committee will be extending an invitation to the diocese to participate in a dialogue on race and the impact of current events in our country, If not now, when?  If not us, who? How long oh Lord, how long? Please stay tuned for more information on a date and time.

The Diocese of Maryland has made great strides in trying to repair the damage of racial injustice in our state and in our world. There is much more work to be done still…stay tuned. Will you join me in this effort for the next several years?

If not now, when? If not us, who?

+Eugene

The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

Racial Trauma: A Dialogue on How We Can Heal

May 31, 2020
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, elected in 2008. Previously he served as canon pastor of the Washington National Cathedral and director of its Cathedral Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage. Read more about Bishop Sutton.
Ford Rowan served as a news reporter for nearly 20 years. One of his first stories was on the integration of the University of Mississippi and the riots by white students. Later, as Pentagon Correspondent for NBC News, he covered combat in the Middle East and he hosted a PBS television show, International Edition. Ford is currently a member of the International Dialogue Initiative, an interfaith group that has done conflict resolution work in Jerusalem, Istanbul, Vienna, and Northern Ireland. For 20 years he has volunteered in prisons in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware with the Kairos Prison Ministry. He is a member of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Annapolis, MD.

Watch the video conversation

Confirmations/Receptions

14 youth confirmed, 2 adults and 3 adults received by Bishop Sutton on May 2nd.