We are Presbyterian pastors in the PCUSA, currently serving in San Diego Presbytery during the global COVID-19 pandemic. We meet by Zoom to support one another, and to discern ways to do ministry through collective wisdom. We have different contexts, but the same goal in service to Christ: glorify God in everything we do.
What follows is the first in a series of pastoral perspectives about the life we are now experiencing as Jesus followers. This article by Jerry Andrews, Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of San Diego, first posted in The San Diego Union-Tribune. The series will contain six reflections, over six weeks, from six pastors.
In the midst of uncertainty we continue to pray for each other’s congregations, and we trust God is teaching all of us what life might look like in the future.
Dr. Jerry Andrews, First Presbyterian Church of San Diego https://www.fpcsd.org/
Dr. Paul Cunningham, La Jolla Presbyterian Church https://ljpres.org/
Rev. Karla Shaw, Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church http://pointlomachurch.org/
Dr. Bryan Stamper, Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church http://rbcommunity.org
Rev. Mike McClenahan, Solana Beach Presbyterian Church https://solanabeach.church/
Dr. Jack Baca, The Village Community Presbyterian Church https://www.villagechurch.org/
Allow me to share one pastor’s heart and mind on our communing in an age of communicable disease.
It has never been otherwise. Christians throughout the ages and in many places around the world today have known the wisdom of the Lord’s command to “not forsake gathering together” and the joy of shared loaf and shared cup at a shared table. And they have known famine, war, plague (not to mention persecution for public assembly), all of which tend to isolate. And they have known their awesome mandate to be the Lord’s presence in the city – the place where ills most rapidly spread and can devastate.
The things we do each week and the things we now commit to in this next season are not for us only; they are for the city too. We will avoid as much as we are able being the place where, or the people who, spread the virus which, though it might not harm us much, yet harms others. For their sake we take precautions. And for their sake we reconsider how we gather and touch each other and how we may recommit to touch their lives in the Savior’s name.
Early Christian writers attract me. I learned Latin and Classical Greek in order to read these authors and make them my teachers of the faith for my own faith and ministry. They were brilliant and brave. They beat the pagans at their own game of public philosophy. Often they are given credit for the conversion of the late Roman Empire from paganism to the Faith of the Church. They are due credit, but not all of it, not nearly. They were read only by the literate and the elite. The citizens of the cities were attracted to the Faith and converted because of a brave kindness given them daily in ordinary ways and on occasion in extraordinary ways by the followers of Jesus. When plague came to the city, the population in panic rushed out of the city. The Christians rushed in. Only the rich would have mountain retreats; the poor suffered and died alone. They were cared for and healed and accompanied by our beautiful ancestors in the Church.
Now is our time. We will do the things that lead to health and well-being not just for us but for the whole city. And we will rush in.
How so? We will call every elderly person we know – family, friends, neighbors, former fellow workers, the stranger on the street, offering to visit, fetch supplies, share a meal when appropriate, and offer prayers which are always appropriate. We will drop off gifts of comfort and thoughtfulness, and help them to think with due caution and without undue anxiety about the news and rumors, helping them to distinguish between the two.
Sometimes, with our most precious elderly, it looks like teaching a new technology – Facetime, Zoom. Sometimes it looks like relearning an old technology – hand-written notes until Amazon runs out of stationery. Sometimes it feels like solidarity at a distance – apart together, together apart.
How so? Rush in toward the homeless.
Our congregation, through its Ladle Fellowship, connects with over 200 homeless neighbors on our campus every week and have done so for over 30 years. We welcome, share a meal and prayers, and offer a Sabbath in our courtyard on Sunday afternoon. On Wednesday evenings we share a Bible study and discipleship training with 100 homeless neighbors.
All this has changed. No longer a shared meal and close fellowship, it is a hot boxed lunch with a drink, a short note meant to encourage and inspire, and disinfectant wipes handed out with a smile. There remains a greeting by name and a blessing in Christ’s name. Gone for now are the warm embraces, the hands held in prayer, the sitting together at table.
Medical professionals, under the auspices of the Ladle Fellowship, with homeless guides pointing out the sick and infirm among their friends, still roam the parks and streets nearby offering advice and early care. Now they counsel with their expertise those who have been told to stay at home yet have no home. House calls for the homeless. We love it.
We rush in toward the elderly and the homeless. Who will you rush towards today?
Share, do not hoard (does that even need to be said?).
Pray for the city and her citizens.
Do not fear.
Wash your hands.
Wear your mask.
by Dr Jerry Andrews