To all in Upper New York, beloved of God and called to be a holy people:
Grace and peace to you from Abba God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
—Romans 1:7, amended
Beloveds of God,
Grace and peace to you, in the name of the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. We hope and pray that you are healthy and whole in body, mind, and spirit. We know that God is with us, our rock and our redeemer, ready to help us through any storm.
We write to you today to let you know that you are in our prayers and on our hearts. In this unprecedented time of responding to a global pandemic, we know that there are many challenges. Some among us are struggling with social isolation, chaffing against restrictions that will do good for the whole but hurt for the individual. Some among us are struggling to hold together groups of people or organizations we love, all while being limited in what we can do. Still others among us are essential workers, doing all they can to care for the whole and yet taking great personal risk to do so. To complicate matters, financial instability is prevalent, and illness and grief are often close at hand.
It is into this space of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear that we speak and act as people of God. The words of the Creed of the United Church of Canada remind us of our faith and God’s resilience:
We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.
Dear ones, we are still called to be the church! The church has seen crisis before, and the church is capable of adapting. The form of the church is different right now, but it is still the church. For now, our primary work hasn’t changed: we work to stay connected to the Divine as well as to one another so that we can better love the world.
You may have heard that the United Methodist General Conference has been postponed until 2021 in order to keep participants safe. While we at UNYFI believe this is a wise and important decision, in safety first, we also know that it postpones justice for the LGBTQIA+ community, and that it means postponing safety for the LGBTQIA+ community. Being part of a church that names and lives God’s love for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities is also a matter of life and death, and we grieve the justice delayed.
We continue to commit ourselves to working toward full inclusion in The United Methodist Church, in the Upper New York Annual Conference, and in our local churches. For now, we simply encourage all of you to be as safe as you can be and to reach out to vulnerable loved ones. The definition of “vulnerable” has expanded recently, and we particularly notice that older people, those with compromised immune systems, and those with underlying health conditions are particularly vulnerable. We worry that LGBTQIA+ people often have less access to quality medical care. We also worry for our Asian and Asian American siblings, who are experiencing regular outbursts of hate and racism.
Dear ones, we are able to be a beacon of light in the world, no matter where we are or what we are doing. May God’s light continue to shine through us.
In God’s Love,