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2020: What a Year!

Dear Lord,

It has been a challenging year and we still have two months to go.  The challenges have come in various ways. Perhaps the one most obvious to all is the Coronavirus Pandemic.  Our greatest concern is for those who have actually gotten sick.  We pray for them.  We pray for those who have died with the virus.  We pray for the health care workers who have worked hard to care for the sick despite the risk to themselves of catching the virus.  We pray for those working on cures and vaccines.  We pray for those out of work and those who are losing their businesses.  We pray for all secular and religious leaders to make wise decisions as the pandemic continues with new increases in the number of people testing positive.  Not far from here, Steuben and Chemung counties have just increased the restrictions, even entering a partial shutdown in some areas where the number of people with new positive tests has taken a sharp increase.  (Is this the second wave?) 

We also pray for those affected by the wildfires.  It is the worst year on record for wildfires.  We pray for the firefighters.  We pray for those who have had to evacuate, most especially those who have lost their homes, and, in some cases, their entire communities.  We also pray for the relief workers providing for the needs of those affected by the fires.

It has also been a year with a high number of tropical storms and hurricanes.  Like with the wildfires we pray for those who have had to evacuate, most especially those who have lost their homes.  We pray for all the emergency responders.  We pray for the relief workers.

It is an election year for the president of our country.  Partisan politics were already difficult.  The fact that it is an election makes it all the more prominent. 

As a church, the Coronavirus pandemic has taken what was already declining attendance into a sharp dive.  Our greatest concern is for our parishioners.   We wish we could gather together without Coronavirus precautions but we must be careful.  People are facing their own financial challenges with the loss of work from the pandemic.  We pray for their needs first while realizing the decreased giving seen in many parishes makes parish finances all the more difficult.

Independent of the Coronavirus, our church continues to deal with the clergy sexual abuse crisis.  Mistakes were made in how it was handled in the past.  We try to do better but it is hard.

Everything I have written so far here points predominantly physical struggles.  Our real concern is for the spiritual needs of your people.  Lord, how do we help them when our ability to come together in person is limited?  As you know Lord, I recently published an article on my blog reflecting on the Serenity Prayer (“The Serenity Prayer”).  We need peace.  Lord, help us to find serenity.

Where do we turn to?

Of course, it is to you our Lord we turn to.  Help us to trust in you.  When Jeremiah faced difficultly you said to him, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.  When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:11-12).  As you listened to the prayers of Jeremiah and responded, we ask you to do the same for us.  Help us to know that You have a plan.  Help us to know our part in your plan.

We might feel powerless but You have a plan.  Help us to know what you want us to do.  As we become fatigued, help us to persevere.  We can make a difference by wearing our face mask and using the gift of reason that You have given us to practice safe social distancing to do our part to limit the continuing spread of the Coronavirus.  We can make a difference with our actions and with our prayers.

Thinking of the wildfires, help us to live a lifestyle that respects what You have given us in creation.  Help us to not do anything to cause wildfires (such as leaving campfires smoldering).  The fires are worse in some places because of droughts.  I don’t know if this has anything to do with “global climate change.”  If it does, help me to make wise decisions.  The same is true for the high number of tropical storms and hurricanes.  You give us the gift of reason.  Help us to use it wisely.

What about the partisan politics?  Some would speak of the separation of church and state to say the two have nothing to do with each other.  Our faith must shape our values.  That includes how our government functions.  Lord, as Election Day draws near (with voting already started in some places), help everyone to make wise decisions in their votes.  Help us to follow your plan, your will in the way we vote.

Lord, your church is struggling.  Please help us to deal with where we went wrong with the clergy sexual abuse crisis.  Help us overcome the sins of the past and to do better in the future.  We also need your help with the declining numbers of people coming to church.  Our concern is for the people, not the numbers.  It was already a struggle before the Coronavirus pandemic.  Now, it is even more so.  How we reach out to these people?  Help us to listen to why they stopped coming and to deal with the challenges, not to appease their will but to help all know your love.  Lord, I referenced above the financial struggles of many parishes.  I will not explicitly pray for money here because money is not our goal.  What I will pray for is your help for us to find the resources we need as a church to fulfill the mission you have given us, whether those resources include money, other material goods, or the time and talents of our parishioners.  You know our struggles and You have a plan on how we are to deal with our struggles.  Lord, help us trust in you. 

Lord, again, it has been a difficult year.  As we suffer, help us to know that You are with us.  Jesus experienced the greatest suffering in his Passion, his Crucifixion for us.  Help us to turn our sufferings over to you.  You know how to get us through all these challenges.  Help us to trust in You.

Lord, I end with the words of the father whose son was possessed by a demon, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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