Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, 2 complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. 3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their good, watch out for what is better for others. 5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:1-5, CEB).
The above scripture was a part of our devotion this morning. In the text, Paul encourages the Philippians community to overcome any lack of unity. He points out that humility and selflessness are helpful tools. After challenging the community to imitate Christ (2:5), Paul presents a beautiful hymn that traces the work of Christ from His preexistence to His resurrection and exaltation. We have read and explored this scripture before now. However, something nudged us to read it several times this morning. We now know why – it is a message of encouragement and to inform his community of how he was doing in prison.
At a time when the nation is stressed, needless to say, our churches, we write to encourage and inform our district about how we are doing. The two are closely related. We think it is important that we encourage you and keep you informed about our wellbeing because that is our accountability to you as your District Superintendent (DS). And so, we want to report that we are doing well under the circumstances. But let us turn our attention to the text for a moment.
In this text, Paul encourages his community to be obedient and lift up each other. Obedience and support are essential hallmarks of the Rappahannock River District, and anything less is unacceptable. We have lived up to the above expectations, and not only are we proud of each other, but we also commend each other for our continued support of unity and strength. However, the enemy is creeping in to disrupt our unity (John 10:10, CEB).
In recent weeks, we have noticed the enemy gradually creeping into our district to disrupt the peace and unity we have enjoyed. These are the works and forces of cosmic darkness, and the spiritual powers of evil (Ephesians 6:12, CEB). We must, therefore, be vigilant, specifically, as we reopen our churches for in-person worship.
We have received calls and emails from across the conference, directing our attention to habits that are contrary to the TAM (Technical Assistance Manual). Some of our churches had in-person worship when churches were closed. Others are meeting without approved plans. Worship team members are recording music without observing the TAM. Just recently, five positive COVID-19 cases were reported at one of our United Methodist Churches, including members of the worship team and the pastor. This happened during the worship team's recording.
Since the pandemic began, small groups of 10 or fewer people have been gathering to record or Livestream worship for their congregations. While the cabinet never offered specific guidance for these settings, the general principles for mitigating virus transmission must be observed. The virus does not distinguish between recording settings and other forms of in-person worship. Our decision may be unpopular, but we hope that you will see the wisdom in that we are trying to save lives, rather than experience a temporary gratification. So, until the cabinet comes up with more details, we are encouraging our churches to please comply with the TAM.
Let us dare to be different by supporting the work of the Bishop and the Cabinet and not do what others are doing.
Blessings to you!