A Pastoral Letter on the Regathering of Congregations


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!


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

Trinity Sunday

June 7, 2020 The Rev. Matt Rogers

The Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Presiding Bishop’s Opening Remarks at Executive Council

[June 9, 2020] The following is a transcript of the opening remarks of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, currently meeting virtually through June 11.

Executive CouncilJune 8, 2020Opening Remarks

In the context in which we find ourselves, allow me to offer some opening remarks. Before I do that I want to say a word of thanks to Secretary Barlowe and the General Convention Office. Members of Council may note this is a massive undertaking to be able to enable us to meet this way. We are blessed and privileged to have a team such as this, to do this, and on your behalf I thank them and thank God for them.

Allow me also to offer a text. It comes from Isaiah Chapter 40:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
   and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
   and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
   they shall mount up on wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
   they shall walk and not faint.

When the cameras are gone, when public attention has moved elsewhere, we must not be distracted. The work goes on. The struggle continues. God is still God. And we must keep the faith. I am profoundly grateful and thankful for the continued witness, not only of Episcopalians, but people of all faiths and people of goodwill and decency in this time in which we live. But I have to say I am particularly thankful for the people of this Episcopal Church, many of whom, bishops, clergy, and lay people who have gone on to witness to Jesus and his way of love in public protests, in political actions, and willingness to stand and speak when it might be more convenient and comfortable to remain silent.

I want to note in particular the people of the Dioceses of Georgia and Atlanta in light of Ahmaud Arbery’s death. The people of the Diocese of Kentucky, and the particular quiet courage of Bishop Terry White in light of Breonna Taylor’s death. The people of the Diocese of Minnesota in light of George Floyd’s death. The people of Washington, the Diocese of Washington and St. John’s Church in particular, Bishop Mariann Budde. She reminds me of the courage of Queen Esther. The people of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, and many of our dioceses that ENS and others have covered how they have borne witness to Jesus, his teachings, his example, his spirit, and his way of love in our personal relationships, our interpersonal relationships, in our social and in our political. I want to thank God for them.

But it is important to remember the cameras will go away. Public attention will go elsewhere. And we must not be distracted. God is still God. The work must go on. The struggle must continue. And we must keep the faith. These words from Isaiah 40, if I’ve got the context correct, come from a moment when the people of God had been set free. Abraham Lincoln of the ancient world, otherwise known as Cyrus of Persia, set the Jewish people free from their captivity in Babylon. And they were then free, if you will, to go home. Like that biography of Nelson Mandela, it was a long walk to freedom. And many gave up. Many didn’t leave Babylon and just stayed. And a smaller number stayed the course and went on that long walk to freedom.

Freedom’s walk is always a long, arduous walk, fraught with setbacks, filled with hardship. It is that walk like Jesus walking the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows. It is that walk, like those who walked at Selma. It is that walk of those who had to walk the Trail of Tears. It is the walk of those who have stayed and stood for the freedom of any human child of God from any kind of captivity that would hold them down. It is a long walk to freedom, but we must remember they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up on wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary. And more importantly, they will walk and not faint. When the cameras are gone, and the attention has moved elsewhere, God is still God and our work goes on. The struggle continues. And sisters and brothers and siblings, we must keep the faith.

At our General Convention in 2015, we kind of had sort of a covenant renewal, if you will, sort of like Joshua in Joshua 24, when all the tribes of Israel were gathered at the river entering the promised land. It was a covenant renewal to work that this church has engaged in for years, the work of racial justice and reconciliation. We recommitted in some deeper ways to that work. And we said we’re not going to quit. We’re going to stay the course. We likewise made a commitment to the work of evangelism, a particular way of lifting up Jesus of Nazareth, his teachings, his example, and his spirit as the way and the face of what it is to be a Christian. We said we were going to do that work and continue to do that work. And even in addition to that, knowing that our arms are short, and our hands are small, we made a commitment to do everything we can to save God’s creation, to save this world. We made a commitment to that being the shape for all of us together embodying a Jesus movement in our time, that would dare to lift up Jesus of Nazareth as the face of what it is to be a Christian, what it is to follow in the way of God’s love.

But in our time, we have seen false representations of Christianity and Christian nationalism on display for all the world to see. We have seen the blatant face of brutality, of the brutality of racism that is very often far more subtle, and pernicious, and systemic, and institutional. But we have seen its brutal face. We have seen fundamental challenges to the ideals of freedom, justice, and human equality that are foundational ideals of the United States. In spite of the fact that the United States has not always lived up to it, the ideals were there. We have seen fundamental challenges to the democratic fabric of American society, something I never thought I would live to see. We have seen a ruthless virus, a plague in the land, sickness and death and hardship visited to one degree or another on all of us, but particularly on the most vulnerable among us. And it has exposed inequities and moral wrongs that shouldn’t be in our land or in our world. We have seen increased danger to the very earth itself. And the failure of the nations, including this one that I love, to stand up for our mother the earth. Thank God there’s a little girl in Scandinavia who is willing to stand up. When the cameras are gone, when public attention has gone elsewhere, God will still be God, and we must not be distracted. The work goes on, the struggle continues, and we must keep the faith.

Earlier this week, I was being interviewed and I’ve forgotten who the interviewer was, and they caught me off guard with a question I hadn’t actually anticipated. The interviewer said, “In light of all of this in, in light of the fact that, that George Floyd was a black man just like Barack Obama, one was president of the United States and one was killed by an officer of the United States. In light of that horrible paradox of our reality, what gives you hope?” And for a second, I didn’t have an answer except that I remember my grandma used to say, “God will always have a witness. God will always have a witness.”

And I’ve seen a few witnesses. I’ve seen witnesses in those protestors. Most of them peaceful, non-violent, exercising their constitutional right for freedom of assembly and to give voice to their concerns. I’ve seen them. But more than that, we’ve protested before. This is not the first time there have been… There were protests after Ferguson. There were protests after Eric Garner. There were protests after Trayvon Martin. There’ve been protests before. But something’s different about this one. This time it’s not just black folk and a few white folk protesting. This time it is the rainbow children of God. This time they are black and white and Anglo and Latino. It’s amazing. They’re gay, they’re straight. They’re Mitt Romney, a Republican. This is something different going on. And that gives me hope. God’s got a witness and it is a multiethnic, it is e pluribus unum. It is the rainbow children of God coming together to bear witness that we don’t want to be like this anymore. We want a better world. We want a better America. Let the true America rise up. Let America really be America. One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice, not for some, but for all.

But even if the crowds and protestors weren’t there, even when the cameras have gone away, even when the public attention has moved elsewhere, God will still be God, and our work goes on. Our struggle continues. And we will not quit. We will, like Simon of Cyrene in the New Testament, who when Jesus fell under the weight of the cross, picked up that cross, followed him, and carried the cross.


Habits of Grace

Habits of Grace, June 5, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry

[June 5, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted each week through June. These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.

June 5, 2020: For Quiet Confidence

Watch the Video
I had intended to do our Habits of Grace earlier this week on Monday or Tuesday, as I usually do, and then so many things began to happen, both in our country and in our wider world that I wasn’t able to get to it.

In the midst of all that was going on, there were a few moments when so much was happening so fast and it was so chaotic, that at one point, I was on a Zoom call with a member of our staff and we were working on videos and interviews and it was so much and so chaotic, I remember just saying, “Let’s just stop, and pray.”

And the prayer I prayed was a prayer from our prayer book. It’s toward the end of the prayer book on page 832 called “For Quiet Confidence”. This prayer is based on a time in the life of the prophet Isaiah, when the people of Judah and Jerusalem were living in a time when their country was in turmoil and things were uncertain and chaos seemed to be ruling.

The prophet Isaiah said, “You must remember that it is in returning and rest, that you will be saved; in quietness and confidence, you will find your strength.” And this is the prayer we prayed and I offer it for all of us. Let us pray:

Oh, God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and in rest, we shall be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength. By the might of thy Spirit, lift us, we pray thee to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

God love you and keep the faith.

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