Bishop’s (updated) Pastoral Letter

Maundy Thursday
April 9, 2020

Dear Clergy and Parishioners of the Diocese of Tennessee,

“May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance” (Jude 2).

The beginning of the Letter of Jude focuses us on the abundant blessings that God has given us. These are times for us to be mindful that God is a giver of great gifts. We continue to be blessed, even in our trials.

I am particularly grateful for the ministries of our devoted clergy, who have been a blessing to us as they have adapted to the challenges of these days. I have reminded us many times in the past how our clergy are one of our chief assets as a diocese. I have never felt that more firmly than in the past weeks.

I write in these extraordinary times of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), to offer further direction regarding the worship of the church over the next two-week period in Eastertide.

In light of the public health crisis that continues in Middle Tennessee, I am continuing the suspension of all public, in person worship in our churches, through April 30, including the Sundays, Easter 2 and Easter 3. This is for the purpose of continuing to slow the spread of the virus in our communities.

As the church continues its mission in these unusual circumstances, we continue to discover new ministries. I ask each of our parishioners to pay particular attention to those in our congregations who may be isolated or cut off from contact with the church. This is each parishioner’s responsibility: in the normal course of things and even more now. I also ask each of you to pay attention to your neighbors, especially those who are not connected to the church, for ways that you can help.

I ask our clergy, in particular, to communicate with me as to their own health, and the situation in their congregations. These are times when we should be supportive of each other.

I commend to you all a number of theological reflections from our bishops and theologians concerning the worship of the church in these extraordinary times. Michael Hunn, Bishop of Rio Grande, has written an article “Therefore Let Us Keep the Feast,” found here; and Julia Gatta, of the School of Theology, has written “Communion with Christ and One Another in a Time of Pandemic,” found here. I’m grateful for these words of encouragement in a time in which we cannot all gather.

The Diocese of Tennessee is blessed with resilient communities of faith, and faithful pastors and parishioners. Thank you for your support in this ministry that we share.

“The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant: Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight; through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. (Hebrews 13:20-21).

– The Rt Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee