Bishop’s Updated Pastoral Letter

May 8, 2020

Dear Clergy and Parishioners of the Diocese of Tennessee,

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:2).

These words of greeting from the Apostle Paul, written to the Church in Philippi, are appropriate for us. Shortly after greeting them, St. Paul reflects on all that has happened to him in his ministry, the many challenges and crises. “I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). We in our own time, faced with the Coronavirus, might make St. Paul’s words our own, and rejoice in this opportunity to deepen our faith and to share the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection more fully.

This is a time of transition in our state and in our diocese, and I write now to offer further direction regarding the worship of the church over the next two-week period.

In light of the continued public health crisis in Middle Tennessee, I am continuing the suspension of all public, in person worship in our churches, through Sunday, May 17, Easter 6. This is for the purpose of continuing to slow the spread of the virus, but also to allow time for the necessary and ongoing work of congregational discernment and planning, before allowing a return to public, in person worship, on the Monday following.

Please note that public in person worship will be constrained in this next period of our life. Look forward to the release early next week of a document entitled “The Wilderness Road” (Acts 8), which will provide updated guidance for our diocese and congregations as we engage the next stage of return to public, in person, congregational life. This will be a further iteration of proposed guidelines shared earlier with the clergy and diocesan and congregational leadership. Again, each of our congregations will have a different context and a different timetable for this return that will be determined by clergy and congregational leadership, in consultation with the bishop.

I am grateful to clergy and congregational leaders for doing the hard work of imagining the road back to public, in person, congregational life. I reiterate that each situation will be different, as our contexts for ministry are different. Whatever our context, the return to congregational life and worship will not be a simple or quick return to our situation on February 23, because of the continued presence of the Coronavirus within our communities.

Thank you for your prayers and support in this time of pandemic. There have been challenges and crises, but we are sustained by our fellowship with God and with each other. I give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for being on the Wilderness Road with the clergy and people of the Diocese of Tennessee.

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