– medio March 2020.
To the clergy and congregations in the LCiGB
In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!
These are strange times, indeed!
For me as a bishop of a church in GB it is painful not to be among you, experiencing the situation like it unfolds in the local and national context of your congregations.
My period of self-isolation
On Thursday the 12th the Norwegian government decided that those who had entered Norway from a country abroad later than the 27th of February, should enter into two weeks of self-isolation. I returned from our Board-meeting (the 7th March) late Sunday the 8th and consequently have to be inside my house until Sunday the 22nd. – Then I will not be able to travel out-side Norway for an indefinite period of time! In addition, I belong to the endangered group “elderly”, those over 70 years of age, so I have to be especially careful and take necessary precautions even if I feel fit and in good “shape”.
I hope that none of you have been struck by the virus threatening even the social and economic structure of our societies. Some of you also share the “burden” of being elderly. Please let me know, if any of you have met some special challenges.
Latest news from GB
Fortunately, we have social medias and international TV-channels. I am listening/watching BBC and Sky News as much as I can. I saw the press-briefing by the PM and his two advisors yesterday, telling me that GB basically now will enter into a new phase like many other countries including Norway did some days/weeks ago.
As far as I can understand, this means less travelling, not congregating with anything else than smaller groups of people and self-isolating by the elderly. The government left the concrete decision to be taken by every individual or local unit.
Church of England
I have looked at the homepage of CofE and they say that they will “update their page as soon as possible after examining the latest advise from the Government and Public Health England”.
Church of Norway
In the Church of Norway, we have closed all of the churches, even for Sunday worship (starting last Sunday). Only funerals will be arranged, but with certain restrictions: Not more than a smaller group is allowed participating, people must be seated with open space between them, no handshaking or physical touching, no memorial gatherings and so forth.
A piece of advice
I am therefore inclined to advise you and your congregation(s) to follow the same practice. Not regular service to be arranged for the time being.
It is certainly a drastic measure, and you have to consider how to handle it locally.
Communication with members
What is important is of course to be in touch with the members of the congregation. By telephone or mail, or on social medias, both to communicate the programme and possible changes for the coming weeks and to assure that you are following the situation of your members, if there should be someone who needs special attention.
The elderly need obviously special attention.
Sharing of ideas
If any of you are planning special initiatives, or if you have found special resources, please inform the rest of us!
The Synod postponed
Let me also remind you that we have decided to postpone the Synod, which was planned to take place in Leeds on the 25th of April. This postponement is done in consultation with St Luke’s congregation in Leeds. It is unfortunately impossible to indicate a new concrete date for this important meeting in the yearly cycle of our church.
Meetings by “skype”
“Skype” may be a good solution for smaller meetings, like Board- and committee meetings. I am not very good at these new media-inventions, but I am sure that this is an opportunity to introduce me and others to this alternative. Please speak up if there are anyone who can give practical information to the increase my (and others’) knowledge.
It will also be important for us to get our new web-site up and go. Meelis is helping us with this project, which is now close to being opened.
New administrator for LCiGB
We have also got a new administrator in cooperation with CLC. Her name is Emily Weller and she will be employed by CLC and using two days a week for LCiGB. She should join the CLC-office in Regus, by the end of this month, but under the present circumstances this might be difficult…?
In addition to the Synod-meeting, other meetings have been/will be postponed:
LWF’s planning meeting (March 4-6 March) for the Lutheran European Leadership Consultation in Mansfield College, Oxford in September, had to be cancelled. We still hope and pray that the consultation itself will be arranged as planned in September.
Also meetings planned for Anglican-Lutheran Society and the Porvoo Communion have been postponed. And I think the Archbishop of Canterbury is very much concerned about the big Lambeth Conference scheduled for this summer.
Let us know:
If any of you have any relevant news concerning cancellations/postponements, please, let us know.
Finally: Learning for Martin Luther
Jeff Trinklein has reminded me of a letter/a pamphlet Luther wrote in 1527 answering questions how to meet the plague threatening Wittenberg. “Whether one may flee from a deadly plague” https://blogs.lcms.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Plague-blogLW.pdf. It is an interesting piece of pastoral and practical advice. Theologically it is in many ways difficult to read, while it is interpreting the plague partly as God’s punishment and partly as the Devil’s work.
Our world-view makes it more difficult to use this kind of spiritual “war-fare”-interpretation. BUT still, there are important lessons to learn from Luther in our situation today: The basic notion is that we shall be occupied with helping and assisting, not leaving alone, “our neighbour” who needs us.
It is not a question of showing heroic courage or underestimating the danger we can put ourselves into. Helping others is neither a question of testing God! We shall use both “intelligence and medicine”! And in Luther’s words “if some are so foolish as not to take precautions but aggravate the contagion, then the devil has a heyday and many will die”!
The complicated balance
So let us use our knowledge and follow the advice given by our governments, without neglecting our “neighbour”. It is a complicated balance. And it is basically a spiritual challenge to find this balance each one of us, just where we are.
With the help of God’s Grace I am sure that these difficult times can strengthen our Faith, our Hope and our Love. Let us pray for each other and for our congregations!
The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Frogner, March the 17th 2020
+ TOR B