by Steve Kriss, Executive Minister
According to clinical psychologists who study these things, we are in the “third quarter” of social isolation. In this phase, we want things to get back to normal. We grieve what we’ve lost in the time away from work, each other, routine. We’ve let go of celebrations and now interact virtually. We’re reluctantly wearing masks at the grocery store. We’re reluctantly going to the grocery store. We each experience the crisis of a pandemic differently.
The children of Israel grew weary of the time in the Sinai. The exhilaration of release from Egypt became the exhaustion of the not yet. There was God’s obvious care through the quail and manna. But there was distraction through the creation of a golden calf that harkened backward rather than toward true identity and future. And there were frustrated leaders, like Moses, who broke the original tablets of the commandments and had to return to a conversation with God for a second round.
In our Conference, we implemented a lean and responsive plan to work for a 60-day period, ending June 1. We paused a hiring process for our director of Community Engagement in order to work more closely with Conference Related Ministries and communication. We’ve put a hold on travel and some grant processes.
We’ve focused energy toward more frequent communication. Randy Heacock has assumed an interim role as leadership minister for Conference Related Ministries. We’re continuing our work toward our new reconciled identity that is scheduled to be released at Pentecost. We’ve filed for a government-backed loan to help carry us through, like many other nonprofits and small businesses, but still reduced expenses during this time. Meanwhile, we’ve launched the Shalom Fund initiative.
What we’ve discovered in this in-between time is God-inspired generosity, compassion, and empathy. We’ve been able, through the generosity of so many, to respond to real human needs in vulnerable communities and situations. What began as a half ton of potatoes in the back of a pick-up truck has multiplied into truckloads of food delivered to Allentown, North Jersey, Philadelphia, and Tampa.
Some days I wonder if we will have enough resources to meet the needs arising in our Conference. Each time God, working through God’s people, has supplied what was needed. Like the widow’s vessel of oil that never ran dry and the loaves and fish Jesus multiplied, there has always been more than enough.
We’ve exceeded our $100,000 goal for the Shalom Fund. Glory be to God and thanks to each of you who have shared in this extension of Christ’s peace in a disrupted time. This has been amazing to witness.
I have been overwhelmed, but not surprised, by the commitment and creativity of our worshipping communities and leaders. I trust that we will continue to respond well in ways that keep our love of God and our neighbors in the foreground.
Yet, we are still in the in-between. Needs still exist. The journey to the Promised Land was not about returning to normal but imagining a new way of being God’s people together. The Israelites were not without fears and complaints in their odyssey. But God continued to work among them, inviting them to be renewed in their relationships, both vertically and horizontally.
When we look back, my hope is that we will remember the ties that bound us when we shared our loaves and fishes and continued our work creatively and courageously rooted in Christ’s love. Because there was indeed abundance.