“Bear one another’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of Christ,” writes Paul to the community in Galatia.
Since I woke up this morning, far earlier than was necessary or desired, I have had this verse on my mind. It’s always been my own personal gospel, the way in which I’ve come to understand how to follow Jesus. But this morning, these words have held even more import. I share them with you now.
I’ve been thinking about those early Christian communities, like the one in Galatia to which Paul was writing, the ones who fiercely struggled to become community and then struggled more in order to act and live as one. They knew well the challenge of being a collective expression of the Body of Christ. They contended with divisions cropping up quickly…whose agenda was a priority, whose needs were the greatest, who was in and who was out. They dealt with the troubling ease with which folks lose a perspective of faith and adopt one of fear. And those earliest communities, right from the start, always felt the strain of scarcity, even as they sought to share God’s abundant love and grace for the world.
But those flocks from Galatia to Corinth to Ephesus to Rome also knew well the blessing of community. They’d had to forge it against normative culture and religion and in spite of suppressive powers and governments over them. It was much harder for them to take it for granted, just by virtue of the difficulty to simply be together in life and faith. It was not always safe. It was not a given. Those communities had to learn to be nimble, responsive, and to adapt to a shifting terrain. They had to learn to be together, even when they couldn’t be physically present with one another.
It’s why Paul wrote letters to begin with. And thank God he did! They needed to stay in touch with each other, remain a part of a larger whole, to draw energy and encouragement, to cultivate focus and faith. They needed each other.
We need each other, too. Things are changing from day to day and we are doing our best to prioritize the safety and well-being of the church and our larger building community, as well as those we all serve. But our other priority, equal in import, is to care for each other, to remain connected, to bear one another’s burdens. We are church, even when we cannot gather together physically. We can draw wisdom and learning from the practice of those early communities about how to stay connected and continue to be a source of support, prayer, and care for each other.
Taking inspiration from St. Paul and to help facilitate that process, we are creating Connect & Care groups. These are inter-generational small groups with an appointed lay leader who will serve as a facilitator and convener. Each group will have about 12 people in it. By Sunday, 3/15, you should receive an email from a lay leader, inviting you to participate and asking for your response to confirm that you want to join. Each week, on Monday, you’ll receive an email from your facilitator. You’ll be invited to join in a conversation over email throughout the week.
You’ll be able to share joys and concerns, respond to shared scriptures, poems, liturgy, or music. And you’ll be able to, among your group, talk with one another about how you might need support. That conversation can develop and deepen throughout the week. Then, on Sundays at an appointed time following worship, each group will get on a call. We are working out details on how to roll this out, but feel confident we can do this. On that call, your group can share with one another and pray together.
If you know of someone who is a part of our community who is not on our e-blast and would like to be in a group, please share that information with me by email at Lea@stpaulandstandrew.org. If you don’t receive an email by Sunday at 11am, please email me and let me know.
It is our hope that the Connect & Care groups, as well as a worship service either in-person or live-streamed, can mitigate social distancing by increasing our spiritual and emotional proximity to one another. May God continue to bless us through this spiritual home that nurtures and nourishes our souls.
Be at peace,