13,000 Reasons

I have not written for three days. On the one hand, I had so much that could be said. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure what I should say. My blog “Dear Mr. President” that I published Wednesday was as close to a viral blog as I have ever written. As I sit here now the views have just climbed over the 13,000 mark and the shares have exceeded 400.

write ideasI have not written for three days because I just wasn’t sure what to make of the outpouring of responses to my blog. What did this mean for me and my particular voice in the community? What does it mean for the Presbytery of the Cascades, the umbrella under which I write? If this many people are taking seriously a “church guy” who steps into the political fray what does this tell us about the needs of our community?

On the one hand, I am inclined to follow this energy and see where our collective voice is taking us. There is energy here–let’s follow it! On the other hand, I don’t want to take the presbytery a direction that they are uncomfortable going. I am not the pope; I am just a hired hand in an executive role.

roller coasterI haven’t written for three days because it took me the full 72 hours to come to some initial clarity. It was quite a roller coaster getting there, but I think I know what this means for me. I think I know what it means for the presbytery. We have reached a pivotal moment, a threshold moment, a time to shift focus. In many ways this represents a return to a voice that I had before I took this position thirty months ago.

In 2014, I began writing under the blog title “Pedal Pilgrim.” I was serving in interim positions in our presbytery while also nurturing a community of people whose spirituality was largely built around themes of pilgrimage, journey and religious mysticism. I have had a deep sense for over two decades that the Christian tradition is experiencing a monumental shift in identity and practice. Over the last few years I had been attempting to balance serving the church, as it is, even as I have been attempting to tease out the church, as it may become. It has been a tricky balancing act at times!

ASUS 4 282
Entering the Nevada desert, 2011

Over a three-year period under my Pedal Pilgrim title, I developed a following that appeared to be about half church-going Christians and half some combination of spiritual but not religious, agnostic and humanistic people. It was a wonderful period as I learned and developed a spiritual language shared by all of my followers as I sought to bring them together in one community.

 

In November 2017, I accepted this position as the Presbyter for Vision and Mission with a call to bring my experience right into the center of the institutional church. Immediately, it felt as if my voice needed to change. The tone and language that had been so successful under my title “Pedal Pilgrim” would have likely shocked many in our presbytery. It would have been too much too fast. I didn’t want to lose people before I even had them. I abandoned my former blog and began blogging under this new title, “Holy Breadcrumbs.” Of course, it was a shock to my former followers. “Where did you go? It was as if you suddenly disappeared?” were common refrains. It was true. I had suddenly disappeared.

rainbow handWhere I went was that I knew I had shifted from speaking to a community made up of progressive-minded Christians and spiritually inclined humanists to a community that was exclusively Presbyterian. I have always been a person who has believed that transformation and spiritual growth happens when you start where people are at. My Pedal Pilgrim writing was based on the question, “How do I speak in a way that both the religious and the secular can hear me equally?” For the past two years the question that has framed my blog posts has been, “What does the church most need to hear at this time?” Two different communities. Two different sets of assumptions. Two different starting points.

That changed this week. I titled this post, “13,000 Reasons” because I believe that my most helpful voice is now to speak not only to the church, but to the larger community, represented by 13,000 voices. I can articulate exactly what is happening. My blog voice is going from speaking TO the church, to speaking ON BEHALF of the church to the larger community. No longer will this blog be a “member’s only forum” but it will be a gathering place for a much broader community dialogue.

In other words, in many ways it is time to return to the voice that I had nurtured when I was writing under the title “Pedal Pilgrim.” It is time to nurture a community of people made up of Presbyterians, other spiritually-minded people of the Pacific Northwest and our largely secular community. It is time to speak not only to the 14,000 members in our churches, but to speak to the four million people in our Cascades community.

I knew this day would eventually come. I knew at some point it would be time to broaden the reach of the church to all people living in our midst, not just for card-carrying members. I was just looking for the right moment and the right reason.

Now I have 13,000 reasons.

Now is the time to bring people–all people–together.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

Dear Mr. President

The following is a post I wrote in the form of a letter to our president, Mr. Donald Trump, to work through the issues that emerged after hearing him tease the country with using Easter Sunday as a visual symbol for America’s return to a supposed normalcy.

Dear Mr. President,

I felt the need to write you at this critical juncture as we Americans come together as a nation to fight the deadly coronavirus. I was disturbed on Monday when you telegraphed your hopes that America would return to normal and that Easter services could be packed on April 12. You said that you thought “this would be a beautiful time.”

The same day that you were hinting that we were coming out the other side of this, our presbytery was informing the people of our churches in our jurisdiction to go into quarantine. We set a tone that it was time to physically, emotionally and spiritually prepare to settle in for a protracted period until further notice. Your premature hopeful tone clashed with our “batten down the hatches” tone.

I appreciate your desire to get back to normal as quickly as possible. I don’t think anyone wants to stretch this even one hour longer than necessary. But I am deeply disturbed that you have ignored all of the scientific evidence in order to use Easter services purely as an optic. It makes for great TV. It’s a “beautiful” plot line for a movie script. Movie scripts have a deep impact on people’s imaginations, but they have no impact on a fast moving, deadly virus. There is a reason that we have science and the arts. It is imperative that we don’t confuse the two right now. There are life and death consequences to the decisions that we make in this time.

I write to you as one who has been a religious professional for over thirty years. I have been a local pastor for much of that time and now serve as the executive of a region of churches in the Pacific Northwest. Easter is what we call a “high holy day” in the church. I can see that you recognize that as you imagine how beautiful it would be to have our sanctuaries once again packed with millions of Christians on this special Sunday. I admit that it would make for a tear-jerker, 60 Minutes Special that night.

But for us Easter is not just a Sunday. It is a lived reality. As one of our pastors, the Rev. Dr. David Hutchinson, posted this morning, we are “Waiting for Easter” this year and Easter will be the first Sunday we are back face to face and singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” Lent and Good Friday are just going to last a little longer than we expected.

You see, Mr. President, Easter for us is not a specific date. It’s a lived experience and a season of life. Easter will not be on April 12, Mr. President. Easter this year will be when grandparents can once again hug their grandchildren. Easter will be when we accidentally brush up against a neighbor and say, “excuse me” instead of shuddering in fear. Easter will be when it once again becomes normal to sit next to each other at high school basketball games, concerts on the grass, and in a cozy theater. Easter will be when we step aside and let the elderly woman get the last package of toilet paper on the shelf. Easter will be when our doctors and nurses don’t have worry that they might die just for doing their jobs. Easter will be when we toast each other at our favorite pub or bar.

I am disturbed, Mr. President, because your voice and your office hold incredible weight. In fact, you may have the most powerful pulpit in the whole world and billions of people depend on what you say and what decisions you make. I am disturbed because you have put me in a very awkward position. I also hold a position of authority, not nearly to the degree you do, but I have 96 churches, hundreds of pastors and nearly 14,000 members who take my recommendations seriously. Our presbytery has recommended that we hold no in-person worship until further notice. With only one notable exception, there is no medical expert or government official who is indicating that the worst is over and that we can start preparing for a beautiful Easter Sunday. Mr. President, you are that one lone voice who is not in touch with reality.

I am disturbed, Mr. President, because those of us in leadership positions have to make recommendations to our churches and their pastors in this time. They want to know, “Do we continue to worship online or should we be following the President’s lead on this and start preparing for Easter celebrations?” I am disturbed, Mr. President, because you leave me no choice. I must recommend that our churches continue to remain closed to in-person gatherings until medical experts and our own city, county and state governments lift restrictions. If I am asked why I am not taking my cues from the overly hopeful tone that you have set I will have to be honest: “I am sorry, but I do not trust our president to have the judgment to keep us safe, to be honest with us, and do what is right for our country.”

I wished it weren’t so, Mr. President. I do not relish the thought of crossing the man who is considered to be the most powerful person in the world. But there are thousands, hundreds of thousands, and potentially millions of people’s lives that are on the line, depending on the decisions that you and I make. I can live with defying you. I can’t live with the thought of thousands of people dying for a staged “beautiful Easter Sunday” made for Sunday night television.

Mr. President, I can promise you that Easter will come!

It just won’t be on April 12 this year.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

Church as Community Organizer

“I can comfortably say we’ve had thousands of people ready to help.”

Those are the words of the Rev. Morgan Schmidt of First Presbyterian Church, Bend. Actually I should say that those are the words of the minister/community organizer of Pandemic Partners–Bend.

bend pandemicWhen the state banned gatherings and the schools closed, her ministry shifted after her church also shut down normal operations. Schmidt, in her words, “became a social media manager” as she decided to organize a group through Facebook to meet the increasing needs of homebound members who were isolated with the coronavirus restrictions.

Within hours the response was phenomenal and literally thousands of caring, compassionate, service-minded people in Bend signed up to offer their help. They now are nearing 10,000 members since their March 12 start date. You can read the fuller story here at Pandemic Partners—Bend.

But I want to shift you to another church that has played the role of community organizer in this time of crisis. The Session of Yachats Community Presbyterian Church (situated in a lovely, heavenly spot on the Central Coast) under the leadership of the Rev. Bob Barrett voted to seed a GoFundMe account in order to meet the financial needs of displaced workers in their community. With $5,000 in seed money they raised another $15,000 from the community. The first checks to displaced workers just went out.

What both of these stories have in common is that the church acted like community organizers. Rather than feel like the members of the church had to be responsible for all the direct mission that they wanted, they provided the initiative and organizational structure and invited the community to share in mission with them.

seeking kindnessIn consulting with congregations I have found myself encouraging this model more and more. It generally comes during conversations where a church says, “We don’t think we would have the energy to do a soup kitchen or food pantry or run errands for our homebound.” And I say, “Instead of you feeling like you have to do it why don’t you provide the organization and impetus and invite service-minded people in the community to do it with you. Don’t feel like you have to do ministry FOR the community. Do ministry WITH the community.”

The Rev. Morgan Schmidt set up the structure, but the community is doing the actual work of mission. Yachats Community Church made the initial investment, but the community is providing the bulk of the funds.

We are hearing this more and more with regard to the future of ministry. At the NEXT Church Conference some are saying that the ministers of the future will have to be trained as much in community organizing as in Biblical interpretation, preaching and teaching.

We know our congregations have fewer resources than we used to have. We also know that our communities are full of people who want to make a difference and who share our sense of mission even if they don’t share our pews.

Thousands of people responded to the Pandemic Partners-Bend initiative of the Rev. Morgan Schmidt of First, Bend. And thousands of dollars were raised by the Displaced Workers Fund  sponsored by Yachats Community Presbyterian Church.

These are stories worth paying attention to.

We may be seeing the wave of the future.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

Breaking News–Clean Undies Edition!

Monday was another routine day of breaking news about the coronavirus and our attempts to slow its deadly approach. Both Oregon and Washington ordered stay-at-home policies and the stock market dropped another 3%. My day was full of phone calls, emails and strategizing how best to support our congregations and our church leaders in the midst of a national crisis. It was nothing less than dizzying—and unfortunately increasingly routine.

toilet trainingBut that was not the breaking news that got my attention yesterday. In the middle of the day, partly as a distraction, I had a video chat with my family. In the course of that conversation I discovered that our family had a major rite of passage. My son said something about his daughter wearing “undies” and then he stressed the word, “UNDIES.” Then he turned the phone over to my charming granddaughter and said, “You want to tell Geepa what you did today?”

And at the moment plunging stock markets and deadly viruses didn’t mean a thing. My granddaughter cheerily chirped out, “Geepa, I go pee, I wipe my bootie and I pull up my undies!” And then she started doing a happy dance around the living room as if she had just won the Oscar. Today, another Heron has become potty trained!

It was another day of tough breaking news. But my breaking news was about life, about beauty, about joy, about family, about rites of passage…

…and about undies!

Life is good.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

“We Make the Road by Walking”

“We Make the Road by Walking”

mclarenThat is the title of a Brian McLaren book that has been sitting on my shelf for nearly two years. It’s funny I have not read the book, but I have both used and heard others use the title as sort of a theme for the Christian journey in this time.

I am thinking about that title today as I ponder how rapidly my priorities and my emotional life is shifting. Four days ago I made the commitment to start blogging on a daily basis in order to give us tools for how to interpret the significant and probably radical change that we are experiencing.

I was telling a friend yesterday that had this been normal times we might have encouraged our churches to make a trial run of live-streamed and recorded services, but we would have planned it for at least two years in the future. You know, it’s important not to make big changes too rapidly! The COVID-19 virus forced us to make that same jump in a matter of days. We are in a new world now!

But today I want to tell you that I am not sure that daily blogging is going to serve us well. I am not sure that it isn’t either. Four days ago it was clear. We had been forced to make sudden and radical changes. Churches scrambled to figure out how to live in Christian community without physically gathering. The presbytery office re-organized itself and its priorities almost overnight. I felt that if we didn’t reflect on those changes immediately and daily we would lose the opportunity that this unwelcome intruder has given us.

this wayBut as I said in my blog post on Saturday (How Quickly Things Shift) it seems that we only know how to act and how to feel about one day at a time. I had made a commitment to blog daily because I thought I knew how this was going to unfold. Silly me! I thought I was able to project into the future and start providing a road map to negotiate our way to a post COVID-19 future. I was way too overconfident. Every day has a new and unexpected challenge. I am lucky to know what tomorrow will bring much less next June.

I am not saying that I won’t continue regular blogging. I may still blog daily. I may blog only when the spirit nudges me (whether that is twice a week or ten times a week). I may return to my usual Thursday blog. What I am saying is that making future promises is naïve at best at this point.

I can’t tell you exactly how much I will blog. But I can tell you that I promise to be responsive to the needs of the presbytery and to our communities. I promise to look for God in this precarious moment and invite you to look for God as well. I promise to be flexible and adaptable and change day by day, if needed, and as needed. I promise to be present even if I can’t promise what that will look like day to day and week to week.

“We Make the Road by Walking” writes McLaren.

It is the language of pilgrimage.

It is the language of unfolding.

It is the language of trust.

We put one foot in front of another.

We follow the holy breadcrumbs.

And we trust.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

Psalm 23 and Radical Trust

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

That is the first line of Psalm 23, part of our lectionary texts for this morning. Most people seem to be able to either recite Psalm 23 or at least mumble along as it is read in public. It’s a favorite text of many and probably the most often quoted text at funerals and memorial services.

Interestingly enough this text shows up as we are watching the death count go up on the coronavirus outbreak not knowing if it will plateau at some number that we find acceptable or if it will go down in the record books.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

It has a Buddhist ring to it. Don’t build your life on expectations and attachments to outcomes. You will be happier and suffer less that way.

worryBut I don’t know if I am built that way. I want to want. I want to know that people are not going to suffer and die. I want to do what I can to make sure workers are not faced with potential evictions and power shut offs and food deprivation. I want to want. I want to be able to go outside and see a normal flow of pedestrian traffic on my sidewalk. I want to go to the store without wondering if I will be able to get basic staples. I want to see the worry on people’s faces go away. I want the newly ordained grumps to turn back into normal, trusting, kind people. I want to want. And I want what I want.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

I want to want, but there is wisdom in this ancient saying that I know is true, even though I resist it. It is the wisdom of living life with radical trust. It is the wisdom of trusting a spirit, a presence—God. It is a radical trust that even when life seems to be going to hell there is a goodness that permeates our lives and existence. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…anything other than what is.”

trustPsalm 23 is a call to radical trust. We often think of it as the ultimate prayer of comfort. But notice when we usually read it and why it seems so comforting. We read it at memorial services after a loved one has died and it strangely gives us comfort as we memorialize our loved one and learn to accept the reality of death. Read at a memorial service and it helps come to a place of acceptance.

Can we also read it and recite it now with that same trust as we potentially face loss and death? It gives us comfort after a loved one has died. Can it also give us comfort as we face the possibility of loss and death now. If we can learn acceptance after death can learn acceptance even before the possibility of death.

Can we trust God this side of death as much as we trust God on the other side of death?

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to want. And I want what I want. I don’t want to trust.

But that may be all we have left.

Trust, radical Christ-like trust.

It’s sounds Biblical. It also sounds really hard.

Here is the full text for your reflection:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

How Quickly Things Shift

In the scope of just one week I feel my job changed three times.

Just a week ago I was asking the question of our presbytery, “What is our responsibility in the face of the coronavirus?” Once the initial wave of decisions was made I immediately shifted to “What is the opportunity that the coronavirus pandemic presents?” My blog “COVID-19: This is our Moment” had just been published when I felt another shift. “What will be the human cost and what will be our response?” Grief and sadness suddenly crept into my heart and soul.

empty shelvesThe last shift took me by surprise. After two years of trying create an atmosphere for change in our presbytery I almost welcomed the pandemic as a gift. “This is Our Moment!” I proclaimed. Almost simultaneously the reality behind this forced change suddenly hit me. This wasn’t just an opportunity to practice church in a different way. No, this is going to be a time of tremendous loss, grief, struggle, worry, illness and death.

  • It suddenly hit me that grandchildren were going to lose grandparents.
  • I suddenly realized that the minimum wage earner who lives paycheck to paycheck was now going to struggle to pay rent and buy basic supplies.
  • Even more well-to-do folks were going to have to alter plans around retirement as the stock market has plunged.
  • Children would both be proud and worried for their nurse and doctor parents who are significantly more at risk of contracting the virus.
  • Churches that depended on monthly rental income to pay their bills would suddenly worry about making payroll.
  • Small businesses would go out of business or employees laid off.

There will be real economic, emotional, and physical suffering.

shameI am not proud of the brief moments of looking at this whole pandemic almost clinically as I thought about how much it would disturb our ecclesiastical structure and provide new opportunities as the body of Christ. But I share my shifting because isn’t this what is happening? We are being changed and formed and reformed by this experience hour by hour and day by day. In the span of a short week I went from responsibility to opportunity to grief and sadness. I am not the same person I was even a week ago. And I believe we will not be the same church we were before this pandemic.

My message this morning is to simply trust this process of transformation. Don’t hold on too tightly to the past. Don’t force a future that isn’t yet ready to appear.

Just be present to what is front of you today.

Trust what you feel today.

Trust what you know today.

Be present to the people who need you today.

Believe me, tomorrow it will be different.

You will be different.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

Pandemic: A Poem

I have been writing weekly for the past two plus years under this Holy Breadcrumbs title. Today is the first day of committing to writing every day, providing something to help us mull over, process, and pray our way through this time. I have no other agenda except to share my heart and hopes with you and to be your companion in this time just as I know you will be my companion.

blog ideasOf course, I was concerned whether I would have enough to say to have a blog topic every day. So yesterday I started a little list to make sure that I captured ideas for later use. To my surprise, by the end of the day I had eight topics that were begging to be written. Right now I can’t write fast enough to keep up with the flow of ideas.

Of course, I know this as a preacher and writer. I can remember periods when I could barely scratch out a sermon as my creative juices were so dry. And then I can remember periods when a whole sermon series seemed to write itself overnight. This is one of those periods–like a teenage growth spurt for writers!

bakeryToday I want to share a poem that has gone viral on the internet in recent days. It was sent to me by one of my favorite persons (you know who you are!). The poem is a reflection on seeing this unsettling and disturbing pandemic as a sacred season of Sabbath. Interestingly enough, we Christians are slogging our way through Lent at this moment. Isn’t it an irony that at the beginning of Lent we ask ourselves, “What am I going to give up this year for Lent?” And the pandemic has laughed at our question and asked, “What are you NOT going to give up?”

We have been invited into a disturbing and sacred season. I invite you to read this, then read it again. Read it slowly. Read it with your heart. Let the Spirit hold you and touch you.

Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

by Lynn Ungar

(The Rev. Dr. Lynn Ungar is minister for lifespan learning and editor of Quest for the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship, an online congregation for isolated religious liberals.)

Blog offered by Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

COVID-19 “This is our moment”

Well, this is rather humbling. The COVID-19 virus just did in two days what I could not do in two years.

tilled farmlandLet me explain. Over the last two years I have been trying to “loosen the soil” of the presbytery. Recognizing the church of the future will likely look significantly different from what it now looks like I had a deep sense that my first job was to till the soil of the presbytery and to break up the dirt clods (not thinking of any specific people or groups here—it’s only a metaphor!).

Innovation and creativity does not happen in ecclesiastical soil that is packed down, hardened, and sapped of its nutrients. Innovation and new possibility flourishes in rich, loose soil that has been fertilized by the compost of past innovations and programs. That which dies nourishes that which is about to be born.

campfireI was trying to prepare us for a time when we might want to experiment with building-less churches and connecting through social media and using technology to communicate the gospel. I was trying to get a handful of our congregations to take the first pioneering steps and then teach the rest of us what church might look like “When God Has Left the Building”(a reference to a documentary about church beyond the walls).

And bam! Here we are. The COVID-19 virus just did in two days what I could not do in two years.

My friends, I just want to say today that this is our moment. This is when dreams of a possible future become the reality of the lived present. This is when transformation takes place. I tried to invite us into transformation, but my words paled in comparison to the actual power of these circumstances that require transformation.

Transformation is no longer an option; it is a requirement.

This is our moment. If we approach this time as simply an obstacle to get over, to get through, and to survive on the way to settling back into our former lives we will have missed God’s invitation. This unsettling coronavirus is not just an obstacle to overcome; this is an opportunity to embrace.

tunnelOne of the reasons that I took this position is that I am attracted to people and organizations that are at a certain threshold. All of my work has been centered on a certain “sweet spot” when transformation can take place. It was true when I was working with juveniles as they were being removed from their homes as wards of the court. It was true when I was working with families as their loved one was dying on hospice. It was true when I worked with Eastminster as they crossed over from a chartered church to a lasting legacy. It was true as I took on interim positions knowing each congregation was in that transformational “sweet spot.”

This is our sweet spot. This is our moment.

In Eastern countries there are numerous stories of how the Christian church thrived in a time of persecution. One of the things we know about that is that these Christian communities had to learn how be connected, how to take care of each other, and how to nurture their faith even when it wasn’t safe to assemble. We are fortunate that the Presbytery of the Cascades is not being persecuted, but we are under siege by a particularly nasty virus. And our ability to assemble has been disrupted for who knows how long.

  • How will we continue to find our unity in Christ when worship spaces don’t draw us together?
  • How will we continue to nurture our connection to each other even as we practice “social distancing”?
  • How will we continue to honor the spirit of “passing the peace” but do so without shaking hands or hugging each other?
  • Will we still find ways to worship in spaces and places dedicated to more mundane purposes?
  • Will we still find ways to nurture the faith of our children without classrooms dedicated to that purpose?
  • And what about communion? How will we practice being a sacramental community without the usual sacramental rituals?

Over the coming weeks and months I will be blogging on a daily basis to interpret this adaptive moment we find ourselves in. This is our transformational moment. Each day our new circumstances will change us and remold us into a new people. When we come out the other side of this we will be a changed people and a changed church.

“So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 2 Corinthians 5: 17

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By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Mission and Vision, Presbytery of the Cascades

 

Be still…even now

This is going to be a short blog. I admit it—I am exhausted. I had already had a fuller than usual schedule in the last couple of weeks when the coronavirus pandemic went from something that was happening in China to something that will affect all of us.

In the midst of this I was at my cardiac rehab today, a twice weekly commitment I have made as I recover from the heart attack of nearly two months ago. Today’s theme was stress and we were talking about the particular stresses of being in ministry in this time. My rehab therapist asked me, “Do you think those stresses are going to go away over time?” She was sort of imaging ministry a little like the stock market. “Yes, it’s a tough market right now, but just give it time and it will rebound,” seemed to be the assumption behind her question.

Praying under sunsetI admitted to her that the stresses that most ministers feel isn’t going to change. It seems to come with the job. But then I added, “What can change is how I cope with it.” And then I told her about the 90-minute warm up that I have added into my day over the last thirteen years. While there is an occasional day that still gets away from me I don’t start my work day until I have run through my morning routine of a half hour gentle yoga, 10-15 minutes of spiritual reading and reflection and another 30-45 minutes of stream of consciousness prayer journaling.

I write this to you today because we appear to be entering a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Every day we make greater adjustments to the threat of the coronavirus. Events are being cancelled. Some states are closing universities. Major league sports are being postponed, altered and cancelled. And, if that wasn’t enough, the stock market has plunged dramatically in just two short weeks.

This is all very unnerving and unsettling.

We may be tempted to abandon our self-care in this time. We may be tempted to set aside our spiritual disciplines promising to get back to them when all of this passes. We might even consider it selfish to take time for prayer when action is what is called for.

My encouragement in this time is:

Don’t!

Don’t let yourself be tempted to abandon those disciplines that root you in God.

Don’t let those activities go that keep you grounded and centered.

Don’t forget to do the things that remind you of who you are on a daily basis.”

This is not the time to let those go. This is when we depend on them all the more.

If leave you with excerpts from Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades