I have to admit, this Ponderings was very difficult for me to write. I’ve started it – and done the computer equivalent of crumpling it up and tossing it in the trash – at least a dozen times. It’s been tough to get The Moravian back on track, and trying to write about what’s been happening over the past few months led me in many different directions. There has been much to do – and deal with – during this time…and there is still much to do.
Like many, I’ve been overwhelmed by the enormity of the times in which we live. In March, a novel coronavirus stormed onto our shores, infecting millions and killing more than 100,000 and counting. The disease’s virulence and unpredictability, and our inability to protect against it, caused the closure of schools, business and churches. Unemployment skyrocketed, the economy was hit hard, and terms like “social distancing” and “ventilator” and “contact tracing” became part of our everyday lexicon.
For all of us, this pandemic robbed many of us of our ability to congregate. Worshiping together in our churches, singing our hymns and gathering for Bible studies or community events all became unsafe. Memorial services for those who died became private affairs. We were required to be physically distant during the holiest time of our church year – Holy Week and Easter. Only now, after nearly three months, are we considering coming back together in our churches.
But, while we’ve been physically apart, it doesn’t mean we’ve been spiritually distant. I’ve been truly amazed at the dedication, creativity and resourcefulness of Moravians everywhere in rising to the challenge this pandemic created.
Soon, pastors were becoming video stars. Bible studies and board meetings moved to virtual meeting rooms. Church services went online. Congregations began using new methods to connect with their members. And members found ways to continue serving their communities through food drives, mask-making, supporting local essential workers and many other ways of assisting those most affected by the pandemic.
My agency, the Interprovincial Board of Communication, focused on providing resources and materials for congregations to use in preparing alternative worship services. We’ve found ways to offer liturgies, music and recordings from the Moravian Book of Worship and other sources (and in the process became an reluctant authority on copyright and licensing). The staff of the IBOC has also continued to focus on filling orders, answering questions, providing resources, maintaining our online presence and preparing the 2021 Moravian Daily Texts.
In partnership with Moravian Church Without Walls (MCWW), we’ve helped provide online services on Sundays for those whose congregations don’t have an online presence, while providing a central list of those churches who are holding virtual Sunday services. And in conjunction with MCWW and the Southern Province Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM), we hosted Readings for Holy Week services and provided resources for churches who wanted to hold their own virtual opportunities, including audio recordings and printed materials.
I’m in awe of the work of Moravian agencies: the BCM, who provided a plethora of resources and materials on many aspects of dealing with COVID-19; the Board of World Mission, which offered grants to churches to enable alternative worship and communication; the Moravian Music Foundation, which found ways to keep music as part of our worship; and the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America, whose Giving Portal and investment management have helped many congregations. And throughout, the Provincial Elders’ Conferences and district boards provided guidance and leadership.
At the same time, our local Moravian ministries and agencies continued to make a positive impact in all that they do, overcoming many challenges brought on by COVID-19. (I could keep going – and will in future issues of The Moravian!)
Then, while our nation was reeling from the challenges brought on by COVID-19, a tragedy on the streets of Minneapolis brought a renewed and powerful focus on racial injustice to communities large and small. While both the Northern and Southern Provinces were already working on initiatives to address racial issues based on legislation from the Synods of 2018 (see story on page 8), the events in May have placed additional emphasis on helping to find answers.
There are a number of Moravian congregations in the Minneapolis area; several of our pastors who are working on racial justice issues live within miles of where George Floyd was killed. In the weeks that followed that tragic event, many pastors spoke on the topic in impassioned sermons, or participated in peaceful demonstrations decrying issues of race, inequality and violence. Online and in upcoming issues of The Moravian, we’ll be looking to provide additional news and resources on this difficult issue.
As I write this, I’ve been working from various rooms in my house for more than ten weeks. I haven’t visited my home church since March (although I have participated in church services every Sunday since we’ve been in our stay-at-home order, thanks to MCWW). Yet, I have much to be thankful for: my family and I are healthy, we continue to work, we’ve been fortunate to not be directly affected by the disease, and we’ve been very busy in a time when many were sidelined.
I admit it took some time to make this new routine work for me. It’s only been in the past few weeks that I’ve been able to shift my focus back to some of my more traditional yet important IBOC work – like The Moravian magazine.
There’s yet much to do as we seek to live into the “new normal.” Churches will be navigating the difficult task of returning to worshiping together. Many of our friends and relatives will be struggling to find work or return to school. And across the land, coming to grips with—and taking action to address —racial inequality will be part of living out our faith.
Know that The Moravian will be documenting and sharing those efforts going forward. In the coming issues, we’ll share many of the stories of creativity and hope that have resonated through the Moravian world during 2020. See page 35 for information on sharing your story.
In this issue, we feature the Board of World Mission Annual Report (the publication of which is a BWM/IBOC partnership); reflections on singing and the power of Jesus; a pilgrimage for racial injustice that serves as a pilot for all Northern Province clergy in 2021; an update on the Moravian Ministries Foundation; and the story of how one church turned Sunday worship into a food drive (or is it the other way around?) As always, I appreciate your comments, questions and ideas.
It’s good to be back, but there’s still much to do.
Mike Riess, Editor