March 27, 2020
Dr. John D’Elia,
President and Professor of Christian History and Culture
New Theological Seminary of the West
Dear Friends of NTSW,
Grace and peace to all of you as we all navigate some truly unexpected times. So much of what we’re doing in our homes and churches and seminaries is completely unprecedented, but I’m happy to say that the team here at NTSW is working hard to learn some new ways to serve you.
In the meantime, I offer this letter of encouragement.
Brother Lawrence was a 17th-century monk who left some wonderful writings that still bless us. (You can read about him here.) Today I came across a quote that fits very well with our situation:
“It is not necessary for being with God to be always at church. We may make a sanctuary of our hearts where we can retreat from time to time to speak with God in meekness, humility, and love. Everyone is capable of such familiar conversation with God, some more, and some less. God knows what we can do. Let’s begin, then. Maybe God expects just one single generous resolution on our part. Have courage!”
Isn’t that perfect for us right now? Of course we love being in our churches together, but we can make a sanctuary in our own hearts and homes as we come to God humbly and with love. That encourages me today. As a working pastor I feel the loss of being with my congregation right now. I had so many things planned for Lent and Holy Week, and now I’m trying to figure out new ways to do what I can.
I know that many of you attend church to serve and to learn-to meet with your friends and to enjoy the community there. I feel your loss, as we sit in our homes and try to connect with phone calls and emails and texts. This is a strange time-it’s also a potentially lonely time. We’d really rather be doing the things we’d scheduled for this week-some of us were traveling, others had tickets to shows or plans to be with family and friends. I don’t minimize the loss of our new situation.
But still… All of us are capable of spending a little extra time with God-of taking this extra time and giving a little of it over to reflecting on who we are and whose we are. Netflix and Hulu and the 24-hour news will still be there! We won’t miss out on anything crucial if we switch off for a little while and have a conversation with God.
It’s still Lent, though I think most of us feel like we’ve given up quite enough already. Still, set aside a little time for some reflection and repentance as we move closer to Easter. Who knows what that day will be like? One thing I know is that we will still celebrate the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, even if we do it from our homes.
Blessings to all of you as you learn to live a new way for a while. You are in our prayers!
John D’Elia and the NTSW Team