2020 Gathering – an update

A Letter from the EP Board to the EP Community,

After considering the ongoing reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to cancel this summer’s Gathering. The scheduled theme “Discipleship in a Technological Age” and its programming (including location, enlisted plenaries, preachers, worship services, forums, etc.) will be moved back one year to Summer 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc across the world, and certainly in the United States, where the death toll has reached well over 10,000, with estimates surpassing 80,000 by summer’s end. For the foreseeable future, most of the country will remain under shelter-in-place directives aimed at flattening the curve of the disease’s spread and buying time for overwhelmed medical services. Much of America’s infrastructure has shut down, with untold consequences for the global economy and the world’s most vulnerable. As you well know, churches can no longer meet in person, a devastating reality in any context, but especially so during the church’s highest holy season. Resurrection tells us that dividing walls have been brought down and the world now reconciled in Christ can come together. The church must now wrestle with what Resurrection means as we cannot physically be together.

In this context it simply did not make sense to continue with the Gathering as planned, much less begin the process of conference registration as we normally would at this time of year. Even if conditions were to dramatically improve by July, the sheer number of contingencies facing registrants makes it unwise to move ahead. We considered rearranging this summer’s Gathering to COVID-19 conditions (such as hosting a virtual meeting), but decided that the integrity of the planned program and the Gathering’s particular ways of being together were too important to seriously alter.

We do not make this decision lightly. For 20 consecutive years, the EP has gathered to be together, worship and learn together, be challenged and grow together, lament and celebrate together, where simply being together embodied for us the goodness of God’s deep love. COVID-19 has certainly revealed the fragility of the world’s many institutions and systems, including the great inequalities of the pandemic’s effects. But the plague has also illuminated the loveliness of God’s world, a loveliness that for us sinners often only becomes apparent when threatened. In those moments one is forced to decide what is important, and learn better how to hold it. Through this process, the Board has come to even greater appreciation for the Gathering, all that it means and does, and so deeply lament not being together this summer.

In the coming weeks, we will announce a number of EP-sponsored events for churches as they address the pandemic. While no substitute for the Gathering, these events, we hope, will foster some semblance of togetherness as churches wrestle with how to be church in this season. We believe EP’s storied church communities offer much needed resources that can inspire and equip churches during this time. You can expect a variety of on-line offerings, from the contemplative and worshipful to the practical and useful. We will soon be in touch about these offerings.

In all things, we find encouragement from you and all that we have heard and imagine your communities are doing to serve your neighbors. Holy Week tells us that God remains with us even in the deepest darkness, and that we can take heart knowing that Resurrection will in time lift the darkness, this current darkness and many others beside.

George Herbert-“Death”

With the dawn of a new church year, The Englewood Review of Books is curating a weekly series of classic and contemporary poems that resonate with the themes of the lectionary readings. Here is one of the poems for this coming Sunday (Lent Week 5 – More poems for this Sunday can be found here)

 

Death

George Herbert

to accompany the lectionary reading: Ezekiel 37: 1-14

 

Death, thou wast once an uncouth hideous thing,

                           Nothing but bones,

      The sad effect of sadder groans:

Thy mouth was open, but thou couldst not sing.

For we considered thee as at some six

                           Or ten years hence,

      After the loss of life and sense,

Flesh being turned to dust, and bones to sticks.

We looked on this side of thee, shooting short;

                            Where we did find

      The shells of fledge souls left behind,

Dry dust, which sheds no tears, but may extort.

But since our Savior’s death did put some blood

                           Into thy face,

      Thou art grown fair and full of grace,

Much in request, much sought for as a good.

For we do now behold thee gay and glad,

                           As at Doomsday;

      When souls shall wear their new array,

And all thy bones with beauty shall be clad.

Therefore we can go die as sleep, and trust

                           Half that we have

      Unto an honest faithful grave;

Making our pillows either down, or dust.

 

*** This poem is in the public domain,
and may be read in a live-streamed worship service.

 

 


George Herbert (1593 – 1633) was a Welsh-born poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. His poetry is associated with the writings of the metaphysical poets, and he is recognised as “one of the foremost British devotional lyricists.”  (Wikipedia)

Thoughts for this present age.

We’ve all been adjusting to the changes that have occurred recently as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many friends and endorsers of EP have been writing about this experience and how we continue to live out our lives as followers of Christ. Some helpful information may not be explicitly Christian, but may help us navigate the challenges ahead. Links are below. Feel free to leave links to things that you’ve found helpful in the comments and we’ll add them to a resource list. The image is He Qi’s Peace Be Still. Here is a prayer from the Corrymella Community:

 

God of the good news that spreads faster than fear,
God of the courage that comes from the heart:
Be with us as anxieties rise and with us as uncertainty grows.
Be with us when children ask difficult questions,
and with us when parents seem farther away.
Remind us that to be a community does not always mean
to be physically present beside those we know well.
It also can mean being spiritually present
with those who feel very alone;
and that you as our God, the God made flesh,
are also the God who calls us from the tumult
and tells us to be still
and to know that you are God
with us.
Amen.

 

In no particular order: 

In the Days of the Coronavirus   The Very Reverend Barkley Thompson

In Everything (Including Coronavirus) Turn Towards Jesus  Dale Gish

Improvising in a Pandemic  MaryAnn McKibben Dana

The Shift Americans Must Make to Fight the Coronavirus  Meghan O’Rourke

Churches Should Think Twice Before Webcasting Their Worship Services  C. Christopher Smith

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent: Home Edition (facebook video)  Fritz Bauerschmidt

CORONAVIRUS: God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways (facebook video)  Fr. Richard J. Bozzelli

 

 

 

Love for Lent

 

 

Our friends at Church of the Sojourners are sharing a devotional for Lent. 

“During Lent, when we remember Christ’s death, let’s not forget that the Roman Empire executed Jesus as a political threat. As we face into an election year in the U.S., we need to recall the political witness of Jesus, whose central teaching is, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” 

Read more about this series here.