Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It has been a while since the last pastoral letter.  October is Clergy Appreciation month.  I give thanks for all our clergy leaders during these stressful and challenging pandemic days.  Who would have thought back in March that seven months later we are still living with it?  Some of our ministers are tired and beat up, doing things in ministry they have not done before (or at least for an awfully long time).  New decisions are made weekly and conflict management seems to be a common occurrence.  Know that your denominational leadership prays for its ministers on a regular basis.  Each week the Pastoral Development Ministry Team sends out an email/video to a select presbytery and lifts that presbytery up in prayer for the week.  By the end of the year each presbytery will have been lifted up in prayer.

The reflection below was shared by new Ministry Council member Amy Moore Cresswell, a member of the Dyersburg, TN CPC. I asked her permission to share with the Church as a word of encouragement.

“Today my Bible reading was in Nehemiah 8. The commentator mentioned that this was the first time in 800 years that God’s people were able to fully celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. (This is right after the reconstruction of the temple following the return to Jerusalem of some of the Jews after the Babylonian exile.)

I know we have all been having a multitude of discussions about how the church is responding to the pandemic, what worship can/should look like now, and concerns around what future worship and church gatherings may look like.

And then I was just thinking... to be able to fully celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles after 800 years.  Ezra recounted all the tradition and all the history and all the stories back to the people to fully celebrate this Feast as an act of worship after 800 years.

And we worry that 7 months of a pandemic will change the church and our worship forever.

And maybe it will.

But.

God is so much bigger and greater. If 800 years isn’t too long for this festival of worship, then we can trust in his plan for us during this time, regardless of circumstances and how it may play out.

Not to say that we should take the current decisions and discernment process lightly, but at the end of it, to trust that God is in control and that He does have a plan for His people, His church, and our worship.

May He raise up leaders for us like Ezra—that His provision for us, His faithfulness, and His rescue story would be proclaimed. And may we be guided by the Holy Spirit during this time as we navigate the unfamiliar.”

There are concerns about another prolonged period of higher COVID-19 cases and deaths around the globe.   We are just days away from a very contentious U.S. presidential election as fears rise about the election outcome.  There is unrest in places around the world where Cumberland Presbyterians live, particularly in Hong Kong.  Join me in prayer on Sunday, November 1, whether in your weekly worship services or during your own prayer time, for an end to this pandemic, the U.S. November 3rd election and Hong Kong presbytery.  Lord, hear our prayers.

Rev. Shelia O'Mara
Moderator, 189th General Assembly