In the midst of a worldwide health crisis, J. Herbert Nelson and Diane Moffett write a pastoral letter to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
LOUISVILLE - The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the President and Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency have written a pastoral letter to Presbyterians living with the rapidly-spreading coronavirus pandemic.
The letter, written by the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, and the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, is as follows:
Dear Siblings in Christ,
These are truly trying times for all of us as we face a rapidly spreading virus, panic buying that has left grocery shelves nearly empty and supplies in great demand. We have seen the worst in people and the best. Yet, through it all, we take hope in Christ and the promise to never leave us.
We are holding each of you in prayer. Like the rest of the country, our Presbyterian communities are physically separated, but we are still deeply connected through our common humanity, spirituality and strong faith in God.
We are not only with you in prayer and solidarity, we are also here to serve you. In response to increased anxieties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is committed to supporting mid council leaders and pastors who are on the frontline of preaching words of hope in these times. To assist you in that effort, the church has compiled
for pastors, congregational leaders and members. These resources include information about virtual worship services.
We are all in this together as we learn to cope with our new normal. Because the Presbyterian connectional system encourages us to learn from one another, we are encouraging "crowdsourcing" as a way of sharing ideas. What are your needs? What's working well in your church communities? We want to hear from you! Tell us what you need, offer suggestions or suggest resources. Please reach out to us at
We are hearing the concerns many of you have regarding stewardship. The Presbyterian Foundation offers access to an
online giving system
that allows congregations to accept secure online donations. We know that many people and congregations are experiencing economic hardship because of the coronavirus. However, for those who are able, we encourage continued support of your local church, and sharing God's love with our neighbors in need worldwide. We are grateful for those presbyteries who are providing financial assistance to congregations. We recognize that not all presbyteries are able to do so. We plan to meet with some mid councils to assess needs and discern ways in which we might be of assistance.
We are compelled by our faithfulness to Christ's charge to love our neighbors. During this crisis, we are mindful of our denomination's commitment to
, and urge compassion for others by not purchasing more supplies than we need, and by speaking out against the racism being directed at some of our Asian siblings. Jesus makes it clear that how we respond to our neighbor is of paramount importance to him. These tough times call for the best of Christian character and actions.
Please note that we will hold an online Easter service from the chapel of 100 Witherspoon in Louisville for those of you who would like to be part of a national experience. Easter is a new way of life - in which we are "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:11) and called to "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). There is much new happening in the world around us. We pray for God's comfort and grace as we walk forward together during these uncertain times.
Finally, the past week has been full of high anxiety and mounting fears. We have heard from government leaders and health experts. Now let us turn to the Scriptures to find out where biblical people found faith, hope and courage in the face of pestilence. Over 100 times the Bible tells us, "Don't be afraid." In Psalm 27:1, David tells us why:
"The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?"
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett
President, Executive Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Easter's 50 days
invite us to go from followers to believers
Our longest liturgical season
By Felipe N. Martinez
I was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, where I was a member of a congregation in the Mexican National Presbyterian Church denomination. The worship life of our congregation noted the important days of the Christian calendar - Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. But I don't ever recall a mention of liturgical seasons.
In retrospect, this probably was an effort to draw a distinction between the minority Presbyterian denomination and the majority Roman Catholic Church. (Pew Research reported in 2014 that 81% of Mexicans identified as Roman Catholic.) The Catholics may have had their 40 days of Lent, but we didn't. The only multi-day "season" Presbyterians ever mentioned seemed to be Holy Week. It wasn't until I immigrated to the United States and joined a PC(USA) church that I became familiar with the liturgical seasons. Yet even in the PC(USA), we struggle with living into those seasons.
As a pastor, I can't ignore the grumblings from the pews during Advent that we should be singing Christmas hymns. Though we anticipate Christmas, when Christmas Day arrives it feels as though we've crossed the finish line like an exhausted runner. We don't seem to have the energy for the 12 days of Christmas. Besides being the title of a quaint song, those days are often misconstrued to be the 12 days leading to Dec. 25. In reality, the 12 days follow Christmas.