A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Michael Rhyne
Monday of Holy Week
April 6, 2020
May God’s grace and peace be with you!
As we begin Holy Week in the time of COVID-19, we find ourselves unable to be together in this holiest of weeks. We are separate from each other and keeping our distance to slow the spread of this virus, prevent our medical systems from being overwhelmed, and protect the most vulnerable among us. I am so deeply thankful for the care you are showing to your siblings in Christ as we negotiate this unusual time.
This is new territory for all of us. Our daily routines have been interrupted and we worry about friends and neighbors who might be affected by the virus. We may feel a sense of being at sea and in a wilderness not of our own making. The combination of the anxiety in the world along with the work of adjusting to a new normal can be exhausting.
That is why it is extremely important for all of us to take care of ourselves in this time. I do not just mean our rostered ministers in the Allegheny Synod. Our leaders are working hard and looking for new and creative ways to keep us connected as the body of Christ in this uncertain time. I thank God for them and I hope you will join me in praying for and thanking God for our pastors and deacons in the Allegheny Synod.
All of us need to take care of ourselves right now. I invite you to make the most of the situation we find ourselves in. Most of us are home under the ‘stay home’ order. Please utilize this change in our regular schedule to take time with our Lord.
I encourage you this Holy Week – and throughout our time of shut-down – to develop a habit of spending time every day in God’s word. Take time to reflect on the Scriptures. If you don’t know where to start, I suggest opening one of the Gospels or reading a Psalm. The word of God will still your anxious heart and reminds us that we are not alone. God also will remind us that though this is a new experience for us, our Lord God has led his people through trial and tribulation before and God will bring us through to the other side. It is all the more fitting we remember that during Holy Week as we recall the story of our Lord Jesus who went through the trial and suffering of the cross, descended into death, and rose from that death to show us his true victory which brings us into eternal life.
It also is important to take care of your mind and body in this time. Please make sure you are getting enough sleep. Doctors and therapists who I have spoken with have repeatedly said that sleep is one of the best remedies for stress and anxiety. Sleep allows us our body to reset and be ready for the next day.
Make sure you are eating healthy food and getting enough to eat. In times like this we can go to two extremes in our diets. Anxiety and stress can kill our appetite and thus deprive us of the nutrients we need to function in this time. The other extreme is we stress eat to deal with the situation and over consume the sweets, fats, and sugars that our body craves in stressful times. To care for ourselves we want to make sure that we are getting nutritious foods, getting our vitamins, and eating our vegetables.
I would encourage you to get outside if that is possible for you. We have been given an order to stay home, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay inside. I would encourage you to get out in your yard, sit on the porch, or find ways to get into the sunshine. I recommend this because it is important we keep moving as we are able in this time. That movement and sunshine can make us feel better while also reminding us that we are staying at home rather than being stuck at home.
Finally, check on your friends and neighbors. We may not be able to be together in person, but we can call those people around us. Your friends and neighbors may have a need that you can help with now. Especially check on any of our older friends who may not be able to get out in this time. Perhaps you can help by picking up some of the essentials which they need. This is a way we can continue to care for each other, and be the church.
You are precious to God. So please take care of yourselves in this time. Rest in the Lord. Get the sleep that you need. Try to eat well to fuel your body. Find ways to move and enjoy the sunshine. Look out for each other.
I thank God for you. Please take care of yourself and be good to yourself. We will get through this. We are all in this together.
+Bishop Michael Rhyne