Dear Fellow Believer—
At the moment of this writing, our churches and schools, hospitals and clinics, and all of our ministries and institutions have been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Each day brings us new information and discoveries about the scope of this invisible foe. And each day also offers us an opportunity to live out God’s love—in whatever the circumstances.
As so many have stated, it is particularly important to be vigilant and persistent in the good hygiene practices advocated by health officials‚ especially in how and where we interact with one another.
As a disciple and pastor, I have been asking myself this question: How are we called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in such a time as this?
Surely it starts by being good citizens, but it must go well beyond self-care. As our understanding and awareness of the coronavirus situation grows, so does our conviction that our churches and members are an important part of a healthy community response.
As new terms like social distancing and self-quarantine have become commonplace, our understanding of how we relate to one another has been challenged and changed. So the handshakes must now become phone calls and text messages. While we may be constrained from embracing, we can still be warm and appreciative in our conversations with one another—verbal and virtual.
The crisis is creating needs among many in our midst. How is God calling you to be the expression of love and care that is most needed during this time? There are still so many ways that we can support one another, especially those whose livelihoods and futures are impacted by these circumstances.
A large percentage of our membership are in “at risk” groups. I know how much the fellowship of younger believers can mean to those for whom the fellowship of faith is quite literally a lifeline that sustains them.
Even as we step back from public expression of our faith, now is the time to step up to using our ingenuity, resources, and digital technologies to be the people who are, like those in Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” even if it is through digital means.
I would be amiss if I didn’t include in this pastoral message my concerns about the financial health and viability of our churches, schools, and institutions during this time. I am thinking quite specifically about the tithe and the support of the church and congregation that you are a part of. God will be faithful to us in helping us meet every situation, of this I have no doubt. And each of us are given the opportunity to be a part of how His mission is fulfilled. I regard this as a matter of personal faithfulness, and I will be praying that God will bless each of our families, and every member, even as the blessings that we have been given are shared back with our churches and schools.
Each of our seven conferences have special websites and information for their members, and I am including the list of them here so you can access them easily. (This list can also be found on the Pacific Union website). I encourage you to seek out the information that is available online through the websites and social media posts of your local church and school—as well as through the conferences. We will also continue to update you through the Recorder, the weekly All God’s People online video, and through our various news channels.
Throughout each day, and in my own prayer and devotions, the words of Psalm 23—the Shepherd’s Psalm—have returned to my mind again and again. Especially this phrase from verse 4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (KJV). In this most cherished verse, there is not a promise that we will avoid difficulty and circumstances that challenge and test us—instead, there are two great assurances that have strengthened my faith every day.
The first is that we walk through—we don’t stop. This is not our destination; it is only a part of the journey. And the second—even more important—is that we are not alone. The Shepherd is with us. Sheltering in place, self-quarantining, social distancing—we are not alone! “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, KJV).
On March 15, I participated in a special prayer line to pray for the work of God through the ministry of churches, schools, and other entities in the Pacific Union Conference. Over 100 people joined that season of prayer. In my devotional reading, I was led to Psalm 85:7: “Show us Your mercy Lord, and grant us Your salvation” (NKJV). I shared it with those on the prayer call, and I have shared it with others.
This has been included in my prayers the rest of this week; it will be repeated during this crisis in which we are currently caught and into the future. We need God to be what He is: merciful. And we need His salvation, now and eternally.
Please continue to pray for our pastors, teachers, and leaders. Special prayer is needed for those who are serving in our hospitals and clinics—and for the thousands of dedicated women and men serving in healthcare throughout our Union. Pray for the health and safety of all those who are personally impacted by this virus.
Pray that the crisis will end soon and that our communities will be spared further losses. Thank you for your faithfulness in the support of our shared faith. May you sense God’s blessing and grace during this time.
Yours in Christ Jesus—
Pastor Ricardo Graham
Pacific Union Conference
Southern California Conference
Southeastern California Conference
Central California Conference
Northern California Conference
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