In an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday, CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield warned that the next few months will be among the “the most difficult in the public health history of this nation.” He continued in saying that “before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans [who] have died from this virus.”

Pause for a moment and let that information sink in.

All the illness and suffering, and death, we have experienced as a country in fits and starts, in waves over the past nine months, could nearly double over the next two months. Even the numbers in some optimistic projections are hard to get one’s mind around.

Earlier this week, Bishop Stanovsky shared a message she received from a pastor in our Greater Northwest Area:

“One of my very active and engaged couples in their 30’s have been diagnosed with Covid-19 through a workplace outbreak. They are faithful, weekly attenders and on several committees. If we had been back to normal, they would have attended several meetings as well as worship while contagious and unaware this past week. I know how devastated they would have been if they got one of our older parishioners exposed. Thank you for your caution that has protected all of us, but especially this amazing couple from the stress of exposing their beloved fellow congregants.”

Since March, our Bishop has asked United Methodists to “Do No Harm” by ceasing most in-person worship experiences. Simultaneously, we have been “Reimagining Life Together,” moving with increasing grace and confidence in digital worship and innovative ways of serving our community. This pastor’s message to our Bishop illustrates perfectly why we have been so careful and attentive to this work.

The Bishop’s leadership has been essential in creating a climate that prioritizes listening to science and public health. But an organization like ours requires leaders at every level to shoulder the responsibility for disruption like this. Pastors, staff and lay leaders have needed to hold the line, fielding questions and complaints from those who didn’t understand or appreciate the need for church closures. All the while you stretched to become video producers, virtual meeting hosts, and some of you are also doing this while your children attend classes in the next room. It has not been easy.

Your witness in loving your neighbor by doing no harm is being noticed by the larger community, some now finally understanding the seriousness of this threat. My colleague, Kristen Caldwell was interviewed this past week by KGW sharing some of our cautious approach as people of faith.

This love of neighbor and the adaptation it has required has come at a cost to each of us. Thank you for your attention and commitment to this difficult work. The days, weeks, and perhaps months ahead will be difficult as our communities await the distribution of vaccines, but that burden is easier carried together.

Not every sacrifice we make will translate into a moment of affirmation. Some people will continue to believe that our caution is foolishness. There is no promise that people will crowd into our churches, when it is safe to do so once again, because we did the right thing. But I have little doubt this time of waiting and preparation – these months of fasting from some of the practices we hold dear – will bear fruit necessary for the work God will have for us in 2021 and beyond.

As people of faith, we know tomorrow will come. A new day will bring some light again. Something unexpected will be born into this world as a gift to all.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
    On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.

– Isaiah 9:2

May we continue to walk with God as we move through this season of Advent, always in anticipation and expectation of, and preparation for the incarnational blessing that it yet to come.

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Patrick Scriven
Patrick Scriven is a husband who married well, a father of three amazing girls, and a seminary-educated layperson working professionally in The United Methodist Church. Scriven serves the Pacific Northwest Conference as Director of Communications.

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