We are all called to support, respond, and minister to the needs of our congregations and communities. The coming days and weeks will also demand vigilant care for nourishing ourselves so we can welcome each day with hope and faith. Now is a moment to trust God to give us large measures of gentleness and kindness, for surely they will lead us to a promised land.
As we are called on to support, respond and minister to the growing spiritual, practical and emotional needs of our congregations over the coming days and weeks ahead, so too are we called on to take the precious time and steps necessary to nurture and minister to ourselves, nourishing and replenishing our own spiritual souls and beings, in order to feed and sustain us so to greet and welcome each new day with hope and faith. Above all, let us keep trusting God to give us large measures of gentleness and kindness…those will lead us to a promised land.
Care and Nurture – It’s a Marathon
Please take care of yourselves and be mindful of your own capacity for energy –carefully monitor your own physical and emotional well-being: Lura Steele of Episcopal Relief and Development likens the virus response to a marathon, with the initial boost of energy and adrenaline diminishing over time.
I’d like to share a few of my own daily routines and thoughts:
· Limit daily intake of news
· Listen to relaxing music such as offered on Maine Public Radio/NPR
· Limit time spent on Facebook and social media
· Seek out those channels of communication which provide humor and inspiration
· Call friends, and host gatherings and check-ins via Zoom
· Discuss anything other than the virus
· Exercise each day: take a walk around the block or in the park
· Be sure to get plenty of rest: a good excuse for an afternoon nap!
· Enjoy meal planning and eating better
In short, if we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we expect to take good care of each other? Please make stewardship of your mind, body, and soul your top priority right now: we are not called be perfect – no need to work every hour God sends! I am standing by if you find you need a loving reminder.
What follows is the most up-to-date compilation of resources we have:
Share Resources – A New Opportunity for Virtual Collaborations
With circumstances shifting so very unpredictably and day to day, the diocese is committed to sharing information and giving your resources. In addition to our website, a special Facebook group, Episcopal Maine Clergy Creativity Collaborative (EMC3), has been created to share what is working for you and to create additional networks to support and maintain a connection with each other. Please follow this link to join the EMC3 group on Facebook.
Worship – is still happening!
At some basic level, everything we are doing right now is worship. We cry out in lament, we intercede with others for healing, we give thanks for the new ways we’re learning and responding, and we join our hearts with the prayers of the world. There is also a need to worship liturgically, with others and with our families.
Those of us who are ordained and are called to preach, to assist with and administer the sacraments are feeling in this moment a tremendous sense of loss. Ministry is what we are called to do, and it’s what our parishioners expect us to do. Despite the fact we cannot offer our gifts and vocations in quite the same way, I suggest perhaps the best use of our time right now might be in organizing much needed pastoral care networks via phone trees and informing members how to use online resources and technology (such as Zoom) to keep informed and connected.
As difficult a decision as this might be, I suggest we release ourselves from the pressure of feeling individually responsible for producing online worship, particularly if you are hesitant about your own expertise in using the necessary equipment and technology. Now is an opportunity to join other communities to worship–being updated regularly– here . I also strongly encourage you to send emails, with regular messages (and videos if able) offering spiritual support. Lay leaders are telling me that your communication and assurance edifies as much, or more, than online worship services. For those who are considering or able to telecast worship services, I recommend doing this from home.
More information will be shared soon about a diocesan-wide reading of the Passion Narrative. Video and manuscripts of meditations/sermons for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Day will be created by me and members of the diocesan staff. Rectors and priests-in-charge may use these in whatever way you think is best.
I commend these guidelines and I will invite clergy to join me in a conversation about end of life pastoral care very soon.
Faith Formation – Bringing it Home
A suggested form for an Agape Meal is available. I commend this both as a pastoral response to be connected with one another, and as a resource for growing Christian discipleship.
Episcopal Church Foundation has outstanding resources for a variety of ministries and concerns. I highly recommend it.
Several liturgical resources for praying the Daily Office, praying with children, formation podcasts, grace at meals, suggestions for “Triduum Under Quarantine” are available
Mission & Outreach – Pivoting Our Energy
With use and access to our buildings and facilities now greatly curtailed, I encourage you to seek creative and new ways to pivot energy and resources (keeping within CDC guidelines ) in partnering with organizations in mission and outreach – such as those agencies addressing the ongoing needs of hunger, the American Red Cross, and any community who is especially hard-hit by the pandemic. Share ideas and new ways that are working with the EMC3 Facebook group.
Resources for Mental Health and Domestic Violence
During this time, ordinary channels for mental health support may be disrupted and support groups, like 12-step meetings, may not operate at the usual places and times. Those under quarantine, sheltering at home or feeling isolated or fearful may need additional support. The risk of domestic violence may increase. Keep in touch with people in your congregation through phone calls, video chats, and notes. Find resources for additional support listed on our diocesan webpage .
Resources for Finance and Administration
With use and access to our buildings and facilities curtailed, we are called on to seek practical and alternative ways to manage medical, personnel, financial and general operational matters. A document addressing practical concerns surrounding maintenance, operations, administration and finance will be forthcoming. Please remember Canon Terrance Reimer is available to assist with any questions related to finance and stewardship.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Right Reverend Thomas J. Brown
Bishop of Maine
[March 27, 2020]