Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I hope and pray that you are healthy, whole, and the love of God is ruling in as well as guarding your hearts. As you know these are unprecedented times in which we are living. I am writing you to let you know that I miss seeing you and being gathered with you in worship and working alongside you in service in the manner in which we have grown accustomed. And yet, if there is one thing that I am clear about it is that whenever that time comes when it is safe to gather again, we can’t gather unless we are still alive.
As you are aware this pandemic has disproportionately affected the Black community. National data released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that Black people represent 33% of those infected even though we represent 18% of the number of persons tested. In the state of Louisiana where Black people constitute 32% of the population, we represent 70% of those who have died from the Coronavirus. In the city of Chicago where Black people represent 30% of the population, we represent 52% of those who have died from this same virus. I am sure that you are privy to conversations regarding the need to restart the economy. I am in agreement that at some point this will need to take place. However, as your pastor, that time will be determined by what is in the best interest (safety) of the members of Ben Hill United Methodist Church.
The governor of the State of Georgia has issued a stay-in-place order. We have been instructed to wash our hands and wear masks. I strongly encourage us take these and other measures designed to ensure our safety seriously. Unfortunately, there are too many people in our community who are without masks or simply refuse to wear one. I would encourage us that when we see others not complying with these safety standards to “kindly” ask that they do so. If there ever was a time when we needed to “police ourselves in order to protect and save ourselves,” that time is now!
Finally, as your pastor I want to reiterate what I said earlier: we can’t gather together again unless we are all alive to do so. Until that time, my practice, hope, and prayer will be that we continue to do what the Church of God in Christ Jesus has been called to do – make disciples of Jesus Christ. We will continue to do this by engaging in what we have been taught, and prayerfully we have learned to do: the six marks of discipleship: 1) daily Bible study; 2) weekly worship; 3) daily prayer; 4) developing spiritual friends; 5) service; 6) giving. These marks that do not require a building to practice. Like those in the early church, it requires a willingness to take up the journey that God has called us to travel in the way God has called us to travel.
Remain safe, be good to yourself, be good to others, and may we all be encouraged by these words of the Apostle Paul: “
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
Peace and Blessings,