October 7, 2020
A SPECIAL WEDNESDAY MESSAGE FROM THE BISHOP
My dear Siblings in Christ,

We live in anxious times. I have received emails from folk that I do not know, about the upcoming election. Frankly, I have replied to all that I do not personally know and explicitly asked them to not send their personal opinions to me regardless of their perspective or position on issues or candidates. One person responded with ire and vitriolic castigation for depriving him of his right to free speech. He noted that in all the churches and denominations that he had sent his missive, I was the first to ask to be removed from his mailing list. I suspect that others just ignored him. He did agree to remove my name with a summary judgement of my soul and my Diocese. To be honest, I just don’t want to hear from outside my Diocese or the Episcopal Church. I did, however, say a prayer for the gentleman.  

Now, I am hearing from clergy and lay members of the Diocese. Some are upset with President Trump and the way he has handled the COVID-19 crisis in the nation and most recently in the White House itself. Others are fearful to say that they support the President because of the response from their fellow Episcopalians. Many of us are fatigued by the words of anger and lack of respect. There is worry about the future. Life is weighed down by “stay at home orders,” wearing masks, social distancing, illness, and fear of the pandemic and its consequences both physically and economically.  

Our feelings are real. We can feel overwhelmed. We can become numb. In my prayers this morning, I was reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Writings Selected with an Introduction by Robert Coles (Orbis Books, 1998). On pages 90 and 91, there is his “Advent Letter to the Pastors of the Confessing Church” dated November 29, 1942. Now, we certainly are not suffering under an authoritarian government like the Confessing Church members in Nazi Germany or facing the hardships of years of war, but there can arise a sense of helplessness and sorrow. Bonhoeffer reminds us that as people of faith, we do not need to carry the burden of the whole world.  He writes:
Some of us suffer a great deal from having our senses dulled in the face of all the sorrows which these war years have brought with them. Someone said to me recently: "I pray every day for my senses not to become dulled." That is certainly a good prayer. And yet we must be careful not to confuse ourselves with Christ. Christ endured all suffering and all human guilt to the full, indeed he was Christ in that he suffered everything alone. But Christ could suffer alongside people because at the same time he was able to redeem them from suffering. He had his power to suffer with people from his love and his power to redeem people. We are not called to burden ourselves with the sorrows of the whole world; in the end, we cannot suffer with people in our own strength because we are unable to redeem. A suppressed desire to suffer with someone in one's own strength must become resignation. We are simply called to look with utter joy on the one who really suffered with people and became their redeemer. We may joyfully believe that there was, there is, a man to whom no human sorrow and no human sin is strange and who in the profoundest love achieved our redemption. Only in such joy toward Christ, the Redeemer, are we saved from having our senses dulled by the pressure of human sorrow, or from becoming resigned under the experience of suffering.
The transitory and finite reality of human life is brought into focus during difficult times. Yes, we must seek the Beloved Community wherein the dignity of every human being is respected. Life does not turn as we hope or in our time. As Christians, we still hold onto the hope and love of God. As Paul writes, “I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” (Romans 8:38-39)

So, from now to the elections (and, frankly, for many days thereafter), we will need to pray, to share our burdens with one another, and to continue as a people of hope.  
I’m praying for you. Be sure to pray for me. 

Yours faithfully,

+Bob

The Right Reverend Robert L. Fitzpatrick
Bishop Diocesan
The Episcopal Diocese of Hawaiʻi

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