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A Word from Bishop Bryan: COVID-19 update - Finding peace amid the noise of life

4/3/2020

Dear South Georgia clergy, laity, and friends,

On Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. He doesn't ride in on a chariot or on a warhorse with a sword slashing all those around Him. He rides in humbly on a donkey, the animal that is a symbol of peace and a beast of burden. Christ comes in as the Prince of Peace, bearing upon Himself the burden of the sin of the world.

Yes, the crowds are shouting, palm branches are being waved, and there is a lot of noise. Jesus knows full well what is coming, but He also knows who He is and to whom He belongs. He knows the great work God has called Him to do.

I invite us to reflect upon that image. When the noise of life is all around us, let us keep our eyes focused on Christ, who rides in not to make an announcement - for He is the announcement of God's peace, of God's salvation that has come. 

Shelter in place
On Thursday, April 2, Gov. Kemp issued a statewide shelter-in-place order to stop the spread of COVID-19: “…all residents and visitors of the State of Georgia are required to shelter in place within their homes or places of residence, meaning remaining in their place of residence and taking every possible precaution to limit social interaction to prevent the spread or infection of COVID-19 to themselves or any other persons….” {Read full executive order}

Gov. Kemp’s order makes it clear that the ideal is to stay home. This means NO in-person services of worship or gatherings, NO drive-in services, and NO drive-in or drive-by Communion. Church staff are encouraged to work from home as much as possible. 

The order goes on to spell out certain “essential services” and “necessary travel” that are permissible during this time. One of those special-case items is defined as: “The minimum necessary activities to facilitate … members … being able to participate remotely from their residences.” It is possible to interpret this as permitting production of online worship using less than 10 people who maintain six feet of separation between each other. Even this, however, should be done knowing the health risks involved. The ideal would still be to do as much from home as you can. Please take this order seriously and stay home as much as possible. 

The South Georgia Cabinet and I are inspired by the way our clergy and congregations are proactively fighting the virus through social distancing and by sanitary practices of many kinds.  At the same time, the laity and clergy of South Georgia are Alive Together in our witness to the Christian faith in a multitude of ways. 

Communion/Love Feast
As we continue to adjust to a different experience of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter, I want to remind us of an important resource we can offer our congregations at a time when we are not able to come together for Holy Communion. This special resource comes to us from the early Christian Church - the Love Feast, also known as the Agape Meal. Along with our Cabinet, I am asking that churches use the Love Feast rather than doing online communion since this is in alignment with our understanding of the Lord's Supper as expressed in the document, "This Holy Mystery." It also draws on our Wesleyan heritage of the Love Feast, which is quite suitable for online use. Learn more about the origin, history, and specifics of this special worship experience

CARES Act/Board of Pensions
President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law on Friday, March 27. This Act is intended to provide financial relief to individuals, businesses, and non-profits from the economic impact of the coronavirus. I am thankful to our Administrative Services Office for their help in keeping our conference updated as churches navigate how this Act can help them. Please continue to check the website for daily updates. In addition to this, the Conference Board of Pensions has announced a “HealthFlex payment holiday” for the church portion of the clergy health insurance for the months of April and May 2020. This is for clergy appointed to local churches or to extension ministries, as long as they are on conference HealthFlex insurance or Medicare.

Resources, Worship Service, and Prayer
Our Connectional Ministries team has put together resources specifically for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter, and I will lead a 10 a.m. worship service for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday for churches that are unable to stream their own service.

Let us continue to join together in prayer daily at 12:19 p.m. as we pray for a vaccine, for medical workers, for those with the virus, for grieving families, and for the Holy Spirit to continue stimulating the amazing creativity of our South Georgia congregations.

As we look toward the cross, may we once again pray these words together: Come, Lord Jesus, enable us to ride with you into Jerusalem. Enable us to sit with you at the table. Enable us to learn from your witness on the cross so that we can be who our communities and our world most need: quietly courageous leaders. Come, Lord Jesus, and make it be so for us. Amen.

Alive Together in Christ,

R. Lawson Bryan

**Watch a Palm Sunday message


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