There are two critical messages for you today; First, a joint letter below from over two dozen diverse Heads of Church from all six New England states, called "Lament and Live Together.
" Since COVID began, the Mass. Council of Churches has been convening frequent meetings among the Heads of Church to coordinate a collective response to COVID, and the racial justice work of the Church. We've met with MCC member church leaders, but also a wider network. The Holy Spirit is at work among us.
In every community, pastors are front line responders to the physical, spiritual, and emotional trauma of COVID-19, racist violence, political anger, economic worry, and the despair of those losing hope. I think of the pastors who bury the dead on Saturday, preach a word of hope on Sunday and work their second jobs again on Monday.
We hear your lament. God hears your lament.
The Church leaders are profoundly concerned about the well-being of these weary shepherds. We wanted to break from the silence and stoicism, and call one another to lament all that we’ve lost and take better care of the caregivers.
We hope this letter
provides you and your local church with some solidarity in your lament, and help in resetting of expectations, so that all may live.
Secondly, and equally as serious, is an interfaith guide for Election Preparedness
created by Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC), Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston and Massachusetts Council of Churches to ensure safe and secure voting, free exercise of first amendment rights and the safety of vulnerable communities. Please read, share with your communities, and attend the de-escalation training on Friday 10/30 from 10am-12pm.
Church, these days are incredibly hard and our ministry can feel insufficient to the enormity of need and despair. You do not serve alone.
We do this with God and we do this together.
Lament and Live Together:
A Letter to the Church in New England
Tuesday October 27, 2020
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
~ Psalm 69: 1-3
We write to you in hard days, after hard months, in a hard year, heading into a contentious election, with the potential for increasing conflict, infections, and winter. We write to you with deep concern for the well-being of the faithful and the wider communities we love and serve. As pandemics of COVID, white supremacy, and persistent inequality ravage and despair sets in, we hear the cry of the Psalmist across every generation. We are weary with crying, and we know you are, too.
We write to you with a call to lament and live together.
Our pain increases as national leaders have failed to acknowledge the depth of collective suffering from both the historic deaths from COVID19, and among Black people and communities of color from racist violence. Pain unseen, unacknowledged, and unaddressed festers. And so, we seek to name before God our honest complaint.
Lament is faithful. “During this season, as humanity is challenged by a global pandemic and the worldwide illness of racism, our true complaint is against sin and evil. This means we need to grow in deeper relationship with Christ. When we do, we become challenged to be more like him as we offer that vulnerable plea to God.+”
Lament is relational. When we know one another, we can share one another’s honest complaint. We know that God sees our pain. As the Church, we strive to see one another’s pain and lift it to the Lord in our collective lament.
Lament is transformative. Lament “repositions our grief in exchange for God’s grace and eventual glory. Lament can serve as a catalyst for our individual and communal healing, if we allow ourselves the space and the time to be honest, vulnerable, and transparent.+” We want this transformation for ourselves and our world.
You are holding so much. As bishops, heads of church, and regional Church leaders, we see and hear from you of the funerals postponed, the elders isolated, the children confused, the parents worn, the checkbooks empty, the feeding programs overtaxed, the unjust inequalities increasing. We are especially mindful of the burdens on part-time and bivocational pastors, and clergy serving in communities that have historically and systemically been denied equal access to resources, care, and opportunity. We know of the increasing deaths of despair.
We share your fatigue and want to break from the silence and stoicism. Jesus’s heart breaks along with yours and ours. We have come to deep waters and are weary of crying. We are waiting for God.
And so, Beloved Church, we want to suggest the following across the Body of Christ in New England, and among any who wish to join:
1. Deliberate Resetting of Expectations in Local Churches
Every local church has made massive adaptations over the last seven months to proclaim the Gospel and care for the people. This enormous, creative work deserves praise, and it has come at a cost. Many clergy and lay leaders are heavy with decision fatigue and exhaustion. We invite every local church to adjust expectations for new or sustained programming in Advent, Christmas, Watch Night and into 2021. We too vow to reset our expectations for what is possible in this time.
2. Rebuking of Perfectionism and Permission to Rest
Especially in this season of incredible stress and strain, we must rebuke the false gods of perfectionism. We know that the stakes are high in this nation, and many in our communities need material and spiritual resources. People turn to the Church for sustenance. And we cannot demand perfection of one another. We will only make it through if we are deliberate and intentional in keeping Sabbath and rest. Some programs will need to cease. Some projects will have to wait. Stop what is not essential. The Church has endured for 2000 years. It will endure if we cease some of our meetings for a while.
3. Intentional, Communal Call to Lament
We need to lament. We have been soaked in suffering, as a nation and a Church. Some communities have endured disproportionate death, through no fault of their own. We need to wail and grieve and pray together. We lament fully when we know one another’s suffering, and so we invite you to take the time to hear the struggles of your communities. We commend to you the Rev. Dr. Emmett G. Price III’s essay, “A Call to Lament Together.”
4. Sharing of Mental Health Resources and Commitment to Speak Publicly about Mental Health
Church, for our collective health and well-being even in these terrible days, we need to speak, preach, teach, and pray honestly about the increasing rates of anxiety, depression, and addiction across the nation without shame or stigma. Clergy and caregivers are experiencing secondary trauma, on top of our own losses.
Connecticut: To locate services by town, click here.
Maine: visit 211maine.org, call 211 or text your zip code to 898-211.
Massachusetts: MassSupport.org is a free, confidential mental health service.
New Hampshire: visit 211nh.org or dial 211
Rhode Island: NAMI Rhode Island offers a number of resources here.
Vermont: free, 24/7 support is available when you text “VT" to 741741. More here.
Anyone, anywhere, anytime can call the national disaster distress helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Please, share these resources and seek support.
On that day when all hope seemed lost, the women who accompanied Jesus from Galilee did the work to tenderly bury the dead, even under the violent threat of Empire. They did what was necessary. They stayed together. They rested on the Sabbath. And then, Resurrection came in the form of the empty tomb (Luke 23:55-56, 24:1-3). We who proclaim eternal life in Jesus Christ cling to the promise of our faith that Resurrection will come for us, too.
You have our profound gratitude, love, and prayers.
With hope in Resurrection and the Kingdom to come,
- The Rev. Thaddaeus B. Allen, Regional Minister, Northeastern Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- The Rev. Howard K. Burgoyne, Superintendent, The East Coast Conference of The Evangelical Covenant Church
- The Rev. T.J. DeMarco, Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Boston, Presbyterian Church (USA)
- Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, Resident Bishop, New England Conference of the United Methodist Church
- The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Ph.D., Bishop Diocesan, The Episcopal Church in Connecticut
- The Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches
- The Rev. Nick Fatato, Southern New England Ministry Network (Assemblies of God)
- The Rev. Jane Field, Executive Director, Maine Council of Churches
- The Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher, Bishop Diocesan, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts
- The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop Diocesan, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
- The Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer, President, Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ
- Bishop James Hazelwood, New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
- The Rev. Marilyn B. Kendrix, Bridge Conference Minister, Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ
- Mr. Woullard Lett, New England Regional Lead, Unitarian Universalist Association
- The Rev. Jocelyn Hart Lovelace, Presiding Elder, Boston Hartford District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
- The Rev. Dr. Mary Day Miller, Executive Minister, The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts
- National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, New England
- Bruce Neumann, Presiding Clerk; and Noah Merrill, Secretary; New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)
- The Rev, Donald Remick, Bridge Conference Minister, Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ
- The Rev. Dr. Harry L. Riggs, II, Executive Minister, The American Baptist Churches of Connecticut
- Bishop Talbert W. Swan, II Jurisdictional Prelate, Nova Scotia Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, Church of God in Christ
- The Rev. Chontell N. Washington, Interim Executive Minister, Rhode Island State Council of Churches
- The Rev. Jason Wells, Executive Director, New Hampshire Council of Churches
- The Rev. Dr. David Wright, Esq., Executive Director, Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston
ELECTION PREPAREDNESS STRATEGIES FOR HOUSES OF WORSHIP
We know this election season is a time of increasing anxiety. Religious leaders in Massachusetts are working with civic leaders to be prepared for safe and secure voting, the free exercise of first amendment rights, and safety for vulnerable communities. We are also planning for potential protests, if the current President wins or loses. We aim to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. We hope these preparations are unnecessary. And, we know that there have been increases in hate crimes against certain targeted communities, including Black churches, immigrants, women, Muslims, Jews and LGBTQIA peoples, as white supremacists have felt emboldened to act out. To ensure the safety of all people in the Commonwealth, and to prioritize the security of vulnerable communities, we recommend religious leaders across the state consider these recommendations:
1. ENCOURAGE EARLY VOTING:
As religious leaders are often trusted sources in our communities, use your authority to encourage your people to vote early. Early voting by mail is good, early voting in person is better. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Tues Oct 28. Early in-person voting helps minimize large crowds on Election Day Tuesday Nov 3. Find your early voting date and location on the MA Secretary of State’s website here . Any questions, call 1-800-462-VOTE (8683). Every Massachusetts resident should be able to cast their ballot. If you experience trouble voting, Common Cause’s non-partisan election protection hotline is 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).
2. CREDIBLE COMMUNICATION:
We know that news moves quickly, and false rumors spread easily. Do not share information that you cannot verify from a trusted source. If there is a need for solidarity in body or in prayer, make sure that you are following the directions from trusted leaders. In the event that a particular community is targeted, do not step in unless you are asked to do so. Through the week prior and following the election, the Massachusetts Council of Churches, Black Ministerial Alliance, Jewish Community Relations Council and Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center will put out requests, if needs arise. Keep an eye on these social media accounts. If you have a need, contact one of these four organizations.
3. PLAN IN THE EVENT OF PROTEST:
We know that not all communities experience increased police presence as a sign of safety. We know that not all clergy are called to, or are able to, place their bodies in the streets if protests arise. We know not all protesters receive clergy presence as a sign of peace. And, we’ve seen that the visible presence of religious leadership can calm down tense and potentially violence escalation.
For those who are called to this work, we ask that you prepare yourself. Training for clergy on de-escalation will be offered online on Friday October 30, 10-12pm.
Pre-registration is required here.
BE WISE AND BE CAREFUL
In the days ahead, use good judgement. Keep your eyes open. If you see something suspicious, each municipality generally has a police tip line (In Boston, call 1-800-494-TIPS). Keep your eyes open for anything that looks out of sorts. Report anything that’s not right. If you serve a community that may be targeted, contact your local police department now to establish or re-establish a point of contact. Update your House of Worship’s safety plans, if you have one.
This is the terrible reality of increasing anti-Semitism, anti-Black racism, xenophobia, homophobic and misogynistic white supremacist violence; houses of worship are often targeted. If your house of worship experiences an incident of bias or hate, please also consider reporting to the Anti-Defamation League.
We care more for bodies than buildings, and the desecration of sacred spaces is a real possibility.
We pray none of this preparation is necessary. We pray for peace and justice in this land.
May this plague pass over,
Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston & Boston Ten Point Coalition
Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston
Massachusetts Council of Churches
As our world continues to struggle through the Covid-19 pandemic, many of friends and family members are struggling to hold their lives, communities, finances, hopes, and dreams together.
The past seven months we have lived with a global pandemic. We have learned that flexibility, adaptability, and innovation are necessary for leading in ministry. These essential traits for leading in a pandemic are also essential for thriving in ministry as a bi-vocational pastor.
Many of the Lydia Fellows in our cohort exemplify these qualities as they rely on the Holy-Spirit, utilize their array of gifts, and remain flexible as they serve in new and creative ways. Creating space for bi-vocational pastors to share, learn and grow in community with like-minded leaders is essential to the thriving of our churches and communities.
As we continue to pivot and adjust at the Mass Council of Churches and envision our next cohort of Lydia Fellows, we are excited to support our next round of bi-vocational pastors that will help us learn and adapt to the changing needs of our community.
Our application for the 2021 Lydia Fellows will be available on November 1, 2020.
If you are interested in learning more about the Lydia Fellow, please email Reverend Carrington Moore at email@example.com
Worth Our Salt: The Distinctive Flavor of Christian Witness in this Election Season
Church, join Rev. Laura and Senior Pastor-Elect of Twelfth Baptist Church, Boston Rev. Willie Bodrick II with some of our colleagues in New Hampshire for this webinar on what is distinctively Christian about our political witness in this election season. Hosted by the "What in God's Name" podcast, the panel includes:
The What In God’s Name podcast hosts a panel conversation with:
Jason Wells (NH Council of Churches)
Willie Bodrick II (Sr. Pastor Elect, Twelfth Baptist Church, Roxbury, MA)
Laura Everett (MA Council of Churches)
Rob Hirschfeld (Episcopal Bishop of NH)
Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 7:00pm
This event will be held on Zoom.
Church, are you ready for some GOOD NEWS?!
God is at work across Massachusetts! Through the One Church Fund
and your incredible generosity of $146,675 raised (over half way to $250,000), Black, immigrant and unhoused churches have more of the resources they need to feed neighbors, provide care to elders, support students, and keep the doors of the church open. We have more stories to tell, but right now you can see on the website a map of the churches across the Commonwealth who are providing these essential ministries,
churches supported through the One Church Fund. Rejoice, good people!
This is a counter-witness to scarcity and hope to a weary and broken world. Together, we have enough when we share. Give generously and ask for what you need. Give funds and apply for funds.
Do you not see Acts 4 unfolding before us, Church?