A Pastoral Message from Bishop Bill Gafkjen
To the People and Communities of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod
Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. And Joshua defeated Amalek…
Dear People of God,
The phrase is working its way into public and private conversations as we enter the third year of walking the coronavirus wilderness. The symptoms of covid fatigue are also working their way into our public life, into our individual and family lives, and into our life together as the body of Christ.
We are tired of all the twists and turns, like eating out or going to school or worshipping in-person one week, one day, and then rushing back to “virtual” life the next. We are weary of wearing masks, deciding which masks, keeping distance, and washing hands. We are exhausted by having to make complicated and quick decisions about in-person, virtual, and hybrid worship, communion, and other aspects of our life together as the body of Christ. And, in our exhaustion we are turning on one another, crying out at our leaders and others with exasperation and blame borne of exhaustion, much like our ancestors in faith did on their weary way through the wilderness, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” Some of us, like those ancestors, even cry out in the silence of our weary hearts, “Is the Lord among us or not?” [See Exodus 17:1-7] Covid fatigue: weariness borne of walking the wilderness, fighting the seemingly indefatigable virus, living in limbo, losing sight of hope’s horizon again and again. It is so tempting to lower our hands like Moses, to stop doing what has been so important in winning this battle, and to live as if the virus were not spreading at record rates and pushing medical facilities beyond their limits yet again.
But, dear people of God, we cannot do that, not if we are going to make it to the other side of this wearing wilderness with as many of us as possible. It’s time to let go of bickering, bellowing, and berating and to be Aaron and Hur for one another.
It’s time for us to lift each other’s hands by reminding each other of God’s powerful, promised presence – by being God’s loving, compassionate, humble, hopeful presence for one another. We hold each other up when we support each other in making (again) the pivots in our personal lives and in our life together as the body of Christ that will protect the most vulnerable among us, including our children. We are Aaron and Hur for one another when we remind each other of how, by God’s grace, we’ve done what we’ve needed to do before and that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do it again and for as long as need be…because we hold each other up and go forward together.
We lift each other’s hands when we wear a mask, get fully vaccinated if possible, and, like Jesus, who for the promised joy that was set before him endured the cross, accept the limitations and losses that increase the chances that we will win the battle against the virus itself as well as its insipid determination to rend our life together.
Beloved people of God, as we lift each other’s arms in this wearying wilderness, we join Aaron and Hur and generations of God’s people (like those listed in Hebrews 11) who in times of peril and challenge entrusted themselves to the God of promise and gave themselves to assisting others to get through and beyond.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Peace be with you,
The Rev. Dr. William O. Gafkjen, Bishop
P.S. Since most of the synod territory is again in red zone alerts, synod staff members are carefully complying with the travel guidelines adopted in September 2021. These guidelines include no travel to or in red counties unless clearly necessary and, even then, requesting or requiring careful adherence to appropriate covid protocols as part of our holding up each other’s arms. The guidelines can be accessed here:
In addition, we have returned to holding our synod staff meetings via Zoom rather than in person, limiting the number of people in the office at the same time, and wearing masks and distancing in public spaces and when two or more are together.
We also continue deliberate discernment about whether and/or how to hold synod-
sponsored/initiated events in person. The guidelines for this decision-making can be found here: https://iksynod.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Guidelines-for-Planning-Synod-Events.pdf.
These guidelines may be helpful for congregations and other local faith communities in their own planning and discernment.