October 4, 2020
A Message to St. Mary’s Tuxedo
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Blessings in the name of Jesus! Let me begin by thanking all of you for your faithfulness during this time of turmoil and uncertainty—faithfulness to your parish community, to your Christian vocation and most importantly to Jesus Christ. Let me also acknowledge and thank your rector, Fr. Rick Robyn, and the lay leaders of the Vestry for their wonderful pastoral leadership and care. Many of our clergy and lay leaders have been under a lot of stress as they have tried to learn new ways of doing church and to lead the congregations safely during this challenging time. My deep gratitude to you all!
I am sure you are all yearning for some sense of peace and normalcy which at the moment feels uncertain. In an oddly paradoxical way, however, this experience has brought people closer and made it clearer that church foremost is the people. We need each other more than ever to be the beloved community of Jesus despite our differences or perhaps because of our differences. The relationships we have taken for granted need intentional labor of love and nurture. I hope that you remember this as you continue your journey in this wilderness and as you gear up for the new season.
The Sunday parish visitation is the best part of my ministry as bishop. So, I am very sad that I am not with you this Sunday as I am supposed to make the parish visitation at St. Mary’s. To those who were supposed to be confirmed or received or reaffirmed, let me say how sorry I am for not being able to celebrate this important renewal of faith with them. I look forward to the day when we can gather together in church to celebrate this joyful occasion. I miss being with you all.
With the highest level of unemployment and homelessness since the Great Depression, the need for food, clothing and other essentials have increased manifold. Many of our churches have found creative ways to serve the needs of the less fortunate as well as continuing the faith formation and ministries online. Our churches are continuing to be church in new and creative ways, and I am proud of and deeply grateful to the leaders of our parishes. I encourage you to keep up the good work of serving those who are facing insurmountable challenges, especially the food insecurity.
Friends in Christ, I invite you to lament for the ills of our common life today and pray for healing and reconciliation of the deep division in our nation. Not only are people suffering from the COVID pandemic but also many are suffering from economic inequalities, racial hatred and violence as well as extreme natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes and tropical storms of recent. 2020 will be remembered as the year of the pandemic chaos. Pray for those who are suffering and for those who mourn. Pray for this nation.
In the parable of the kingdom from this Sunday’s Gospel, the tenants of the vineyard are overcome by greed. They think that if they killed the owner’s son, they could inherit the vineyard. This is obviously absurd. Blinded by greed, they kill the son. The life we live together is the vineyard in which we are the temporary stewards of this gift of grace. Often, we, too, become blinded by greed and fail to nurture and tend this wonderful and mysterious vineyard of God’s creation and our life together. We have often failed to bear the fruits of mutual love and respect, of peace and justice, and of creation care in this vineyard. Today is also the feast of St. Francis, whose life is the symbol of love of all God’s creation. Following the example of St. Francis, the church, I believe, has an important role to play in this vineyard of God’s creation and our common life.
In the midst of this turmoil, the mission of the Church is to witness to the healing and reconciling the love of Jesus Christ crucified. The suffering and crucifixion death of Jesus Christ has meaning for us because God suffered with Jesus in his suffering. Our suffering has meaning because God of Immanuel suffers with us through the crucified Christ. We can bring healing and discover shared meaning of life as we practice compassion (suffering with) for those who are suffering from all kinds of ills of our society.
The values of togetherness and mutuality are at the heart of what it means to be the church. The loving, liberating and life-giving spirit of Jesus Christ is the driving energy of the church’s mission and ministry. The healing power of forgiveness and the redemptive power of mutual love and compassion are at the heart of the beloved community of Jesus, and that is the most important mission of the church at this moment in time. In our increasingly graceless culture, how can we practice grace, generosity, compassion and mercy? How can we learn to live together more deeply in the spirit of grace and sacrificial love of Christ crucified?
I miss you all terribly as I cannot join you in a joyful celebration this Sunday. I keep you all in my prayer as I ask you keep me and my colleague bishops in your prayer. May God protect you and bless you in your journey of faith during this challenging time!
The Rt. Rev. Allen Shin
The Episcopal Diocese of New York