Eternal God, amid all the turmoil and changes of the world your love is steadfast and your strength never fails. In this time of fear, danger, and trouble, be to us a sure guardian and rock of defense. Guide the leaders of our nation and nations around the world with your wisdom, comfort those in distress, and grant us courage and hope to face the future; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
-From A Prayer Book for the Armed Services

Dear Friends in Christ,

In these rapidly changing days of disruption, I want to thank you again for the many ways that you continue to navigate the challenges of being church together during a time of keeping some distance from one another. These days call for the sort of uncommon grace and humility that I have seen coming from the leaders and congregations of this synod.

Congregations that have made the difficult decision to suspend in-person worship and other church gatherings are working to find new ways to adjust, listen, and to learn what it means to be the church together in time of crisis. Given the unfolding nature of things still unknown, all congregations would be wise to take seriously the possibility of suspending in-person gatherings for a time.

Here are some things we are doing:

· Beginning tomorrow, March 17, 2020, our office, the Synod Center for Ministry, will be closed to the public until at least Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Those of us in the Office of the Bishop will continue to work (remotely). During this time there will be no in-person synod meetings or appointments. We will utilize electronic means (ZOOM, FaceTime, phone) to stay connected with you and with our other ministry partners. For those of us who are used to spending much time on the road, travel will be curtailed.

· We are suspending registration for the 2020 Southeastern Iowa Synod Assembly scheduled for May 1-3, 2020. The assembly is being postponed to a date yet to be determined (Those who have already registered will be notified after a date is set.) This has significant implications, especially in a year of a bishop’s election. In the short term, we are working to sort through contractual obligations and legal requirements related to this move.

· We will continue to keep you posted on what we hope will be helpful for you on the resources page.

· As you continue to communicate within your own communities of faith, please invite those who are not already subscribers to the synod eNews to sign up for access to the latest information. Use this link to share the weekly eNews signup with your community.

I have received many emails and calls suggesting steps I should be taking. Please be patient if I do not have the time to respond quickly or in the manner that meets your particular expectations. And know that all of the bishops of this church are in persistent communication with one another and I am privileged to be in personal contact with a well-known epidemiologist who is willing to answer my questions.

Here are some things that you can be doing:

• Take care of one another and of the people into whose midst you’ve been called. You may have seen this quote from Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky:

Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.

• Set aside a specific time each day to pray. For some it may be noon. For others it may be first thing in the morning. It does not need to be a time alone. Pray on the phone with others. Your time of prayer can include study of scripture, again with others.

• Consider fasting from social media for a time each day, especially the sites/accounts by which people seek to stir emotions in ways that lead to dis-ease.

• Care for yourself and those with whom you live. Reach out for help when needed, especially if you are feeling anxious.

• Be at the ready to encourage those who are fearful, and to share the hope that is in you.

Again, I thank God for you and for the opportunity to accompany you on this uncharted journey. Remember, the power of God is present for the thirsty and the water of God flows in times of need.

Christ is with you,

Bishop Michael L. Burk