Planting Congregations
Strengthening
Churches
Raising
Leaders
Editor's Note
The global pandemic has caused all of us to change our behaviors, our thoughts, and perhaps our hearts over the last week. This edition of the Communique seeks to (re)connect us, recognizing that all of us faced some disconnect from our church communities over the last few weeks.

These changes will likely continue over the next few weeks. It is imperative that we begin to shift our habits of discipleship, outreach, and care for each other based on these changes. This Communique and the diocese seek to come alongside you as you do so. Our website has a page designed for Covid-19 response , and it will be the location where we place all updates, all tutorials, videos, notes, litanies, and prayers that we feel may be valuable for our churches and our laypersons.

Marcia Lebhar’s discipleship article on reaching the next generation was written weeks before the pandemic affected the lives of so many in the United States. However, Marcia asks the following questions: What is God doing in your life right now? What is He teaching you in your parenting, neighbor-ing, teaching and preaching? These questions, and her reflection that precedes them, seemed incredibly important amidst this crisis. I would encourage you to read it carefully. 

The rest of this Communique offers some suggestions, compiled by members of our diocese, on how best to (re)introduce spiritual habits within your family during social distancing and beyond.

Our prayers are with you. Let us know what you need.

Almighty God, by your Word you laid the foundations of the earth, set the bounds of the sea, and still the wind and waves. Surround us with your grace and peace, and preserve us through this crisis. By your Spirit, lift up those who have fallen, strengthen those who work to rescue or rebuild, and fill us with the hope of your new creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen .
From the Bishop
Dear Diocesan Family,
As we are living in this time of a truly global pandemic, let me begin with the transforming words Jesus shared with his disciples. They were about to face his crucifixion, the greatest tragedy and most redemptive act in human history, when all of human sin crushed our Savior (Isaiah 53). After predicting that the disciples would abandon him, Jesus concluded,  “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33).
 
In the midst of the uncertainties we all face, as life as we know it has come to a halt, we must hold fast to our Lord’s declaration of victory over all the evil in a world of tribulation. Rather than being discouraged by the present, we are to rejoice in the hope of the eternal kingdom that Jesus began what can never pass away.
 
Let me share some challenges that are very much on my heart:
 
  1. Continue in your Sunday worship online. Either be part of your congregation’s online worship, or join another congregation if yours is not able to live-stream. Here are links for churches in the Gulf Atlantic Diocese that are streaming worship. 
  2. Pray and fast. Please be praying for the world, our country, our states, and our local communities. God is able to move mightily as we pray. I am reminded of these words from Ezra 8: “Then I proclaimed a fast there . . . that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods . . . So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.” Here are some powerful prayers for the journey we are all on through this emergency.
  3. Take more time to study the Scriptures if you find you have more free time than usual. Perhaps choose one book of the Bible and dig in. If you are reading online, I recommend the ESV translation that many of our churches use. 
  4. Pray especially for a revival of faith and for your part in it. Revivals often follow crises of various kinds, when the culture is sovereignly reminded of life and death issues and the Lord then pours out his Spirit on his church to reach the lost. The Great Awakening gained momentum after an earthquake in 1727. The Jesus Movement began in the late 1960s and was tied to the turmoil of the times, including the huge divisions caused by the Vietnam War. Ask the Lord for opportunities to share the gospel. Be praying now for those you could invite to join you in church when we begin public worship again. Perhaps share links to worship services that are live-streamed with those who do not have a relationship with the Lord or a church home.
  5. Recognize that three quarters of the people around you miss church every week. Thus, they have no opportunities to grow in Jesus and serve God with the body of Christ. This is a season when we are tasting the isolated lives of a majority of Americans. Rather than just feeling at a loss ourselves, we should be heart-broken and have a greater compassion for the lost.
  6. Look for ways to serve others as needs become apparent. I was just talking this week with a rector who was delivering food to people in need. Many of you are already finding ways to serve.
  7. Remember the Enemy desires to destroy our churches during this virus outbreak. A simple way he tries to do so is to cut funding. For those who can give, please do so online, or by mailing your checks. I challenge many of you to give more than usual because there will be others who now suddenly cannot give much at all. And there are others who will need help. Please see Ame Eldredge’s article about giving in this Communique, and please be praying for the Lord’s provision for those in need and for your congregation.
 
Know that I am praying for you all in this time. I have been much encouraged by the reports I am hearing about what the Lord is doing among you. My prayer is that when this pandemic is behind us, we will all have grown closer to Christ and become more concerned than ever before for those who do not know him.
 
In Jesus who is Lord over all,
+Neil
Strengthening Churches
During this season there is so much to think about. Food, supplies, how will I make it through homeschooling for a month, neighbors, or families in need. But I would like to suggest,  if you are not financially compromised by COVID-19 , that tithing and giving would stay towards the top of your mental list. Why? The church offers the hope of the world in Jesus – your rectors and church leadership are thinking through ways to stay connected, to offer peace and hope, and even to reach out to the lost (who have no reason to hope!). One of the best things you can do, along with fervent prayer, is to continue to be generous. And, if you are able, to be even more generous. Share the financial burden with your church and join in the mission of sharing hope, not only to continue its important work, but also to help your church care for those more deeply impacted.

If you have been financially affected during this season – please do not keep silent. Reach out to your priest for prayer, and also to make your needs known, let the church be the church “to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:45b). They are waiting to love and serve you. Friends, this is how we can continue to be a light in the darkness of uncertainty – be generous, give in faithfulness, and look for ways to be hope and light.

When the first ever church was formed in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost the believers basically did five things. We can read about this in Acts 2:42-47:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
 
In that passage we see people in love with Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit:
  1. Gather together for regular Worship: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.”
  2. Meet together for Fellowship: “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”
  3. Grow together in maturity through Discipleship: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
  4. Serve one another in Ministry: “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
  5. Bring others into the church through Evangelism: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Local churches have continued to do these same five things now for almost 2000 years. Healthy growing churches figure out how to do all five of these things well and in a balanced way. 


Raising Leaders
Let Them See!

Psalm 78 voices the strangest declaration. The people of Israel are rehearsing the wonders the Lord accomplished in the Red Sea parting, and in their sojourn through the wilderness. Yet they begin with such an unlikely resolve: " We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders” (Psalm 78:4, NLT).
 
One wonders immediately why anyone who wanted the next generation to embrace the God of Israel would hide His works from them. In verse 7 they long for the next generation to "set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands." Isn't this our own heart's desire, the first calling of any parent or mentor? We want the next generation to set their hope on God! In verse 8 the penny begins to drop. The dreaded alternative: "Then they will not be like their ancestors - stubborn, rebellious and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God."


What is normal now? Most of us are experiencing upheaval in the majority of the areas of our lives. Rather than waiting it out, we must embrace a new normal. We don’t know how long this new normal will last, but it is important that we take steps to spiritually lead our families during this season especially. Surprisingly, this season is filled with opportunity!

Opportunity may not be the word you have for it. In fact, fear might be a more appropriate word. Fear of loss (loss of income, loss of opportunity), fear of instability (and loss of control), fear of loneliness and rejection, fear of safety (many of the adults and children in our communities are less safe quarantined at home than in school and at work).

These fears may manifest in different ways for different people. It may mean an overconsumption of something (screen-time, food, exercise, work) in an effort to control our own environment and distract us. It may mean withdrawal or giving up, as feelings of helplessness turn to what’s-the-point attitudes for everyday activities. It may be demonstrated through an inability to concentrate or finish tasks.

How are we to be faithful, let alone lead our families to do so, especially if we are facing these ourselves?

Yet, if we are willing to see it, opportunity abounds in this new normal. We’d like to offer some suggestions, compiled by leaders in our diocese, in three main categories:

We recognize you are more than likely already saturated with electronic content. This new normal brings communication to our desktops and phones alone. It is not realistic that we might overhaul all three areas in one week. Consider, however, how these three areas are affecting your family and the opportunity they present in this new normal, and perhaps adjust as you are able.
Looking Ahead
Please know that we will continue to update our website and have encouraged your churches to do the same. If you need help getting connected online, please call your church office or let us know. Once connected, be sure to check church and diocesan social media accounts and websites for up-to-date information on future events. Thank you for your patience.

We hope you have found this issue of the diocesan newsletter helpful and enjoyable. If you have received it directly from us, you are already on our mailing list and you will continue to receive future issues unless you choose to unsubscribe by using the link at the bottom of this page.
 
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Rev. Dr. Jessica H. Jones Editor-in-Chief, Communique
Canon for Next Generation Discipleship
Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the ACNA
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