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Bishop Park on Pentecost and Open Churches

. 3 min read
“In the last days, God says, I will
pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your
young people will see visions, and your old people will dream dreams. Even
on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.“

(Acts
2:17-18)


Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Susquehanna Conference,

Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our
Brokenness, and Hope of the World!

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your diligence in following the
safety guidelines and protocols offered by the conference, Gov. Tom Wolf’s
office, the Department of Health, and the Center for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC). By taking the utmost precautions to minimize COVID-19
transmission, you have put the safety and health of all of God’s people above
all else. I am sure that your wisdom and compassion have prevented many from
infection of this deadly virus. In this time of uncertainty, fear, and
frustration, you continue to practice John Wesley’s first rule: Do no harm.

Let’s be reminded that the church is people, not the building. Knowing so many
of our people are among the most vulnerable, I commend pastors and
congregational leaders who are planning to reopen their church buildings for
in-person worship and gatherings once in the green phase; and those who are
choosing to practice high standards of safety protocols beyond the government’s
directives in yellow or green phases.

Let’s also be reminded that the United Methodist congregations in the
Susquehanna Conference have never been closed. We are being the church in new
ways! Indeed, during this pandemic, the mighty wind of God’s Spirit has been
blowing in new and transforming ways. Because you have been open to this
movement of innovation and ingenuity with faithfulness and commitment, God is
using you to reach new people, while keeping our people in close contact and
care. Because of your creativity and passion for the Good News of Jesus Christ,
you and your congregations are finding new ways to invite others into Christian
discipleship. Because you’ve taken the time to learn new internet communication
platforms, more people are hearing the Gospel proclaimed. Because of your
continued offerings of essential ministries, you are showing that God’s
loving-kindness and caring presence cannot be contained. Thanks be to God for
you!


In less than a week we will join with Christians around the world in
celebrating the Day of Pentecost, the birth of the Church. When the Holy Spirit
descended on that day, disciples were transformed to be living witnesses of the
life-changing, community-redeeming, and world-transforming power of the Good
News of God. They began to proclaim and live the realm of God that Jesus
frequently described—a very different world than the people had known. The
mighty wind of the Spirit moved God’s people in new and dynamic ways to be the
witnesses of the living presence of Christ and the Kingdom.

My beloved sisters and brothers, we must continue pursuing new ways to share
the Gospel and minister while making sure that we keep our congregations and
God’s people safe. Until we have a vaccine and COVID-19 is under control, we
must continue to follow the guidelines and protocols of the conference,
governor’s office, the Department of Health, and the CDC. By this we submit to
Jesus’s teaching to put other’s needs ahead of our desires.

We continue to pray for the hurting world. There are so many who are suffering
and grieving. Our hearts break to see, as of this morning, the grim statistics
showing that the world has lost almost 350,000 lives with over 5.5 million
infections, while our nation has lost almost 100,000 lives with over 1.6
million infections. Let’s pray for those who are selflessly and sacrificially
giving themselves to save and serve lives in dire need. Let’s intensify our
prayers for medical scientists as we pray for health-care workers. They are
working tirelessly to care for us and develop drugs and vaccines to protect us
from this virus.

Our United Methodist heritage reminds us that science and faith are not at odds
with each other. John Wesley’s writings and personal commitments show that he
knew that the living and healing presence of God is revealed in both, and the
critical importance that both play in our lives. By God’s grace, prayer, the
movement of the Holy Spirit, and the tireless work of scientists will lead to a
vaccine and effective medications.

Bishop Ernest Lyght, who is
retired from the Northeastern Jurisdiction, has written a pertinent and
meaningful prayer that especially resonates with me for such a time as this.
With deep gratitude to him, I have attached it at the end of this letter.
Please share it with others so that Susquehanna Conference United Methodists
may pray it together.

As we prepare to celebrate the Pentecostal coming of the Holy Spirit and the
birth of the Christian church, let us continue to keep hope alive through
prayer and faithfulness. With patience we will persevere, knowing that God
accompanies us and will provide healing and renewal.


God’s blessings!
Jeremiah Park