18 August 2021
Dear members of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania,
In the past couple of weeks we have seen the devastation of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti—a country already besieged by political unrest and still recovering from a similar natural disaster more than a decade ago; we have witnessed the fall of the Afghan government, the capture of control by the Taliban, and the fear and chaos that has ensued; and we have watched the numbers of infection from Covid-19 grow across our country and, indeed, across our world, with the Delta variant. In my prayer I have found myself turning to a portion of the psalter that reads:
“Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah” (Psalm 61:4).
It is not practical or responsible to want to hide in the shadow of God’s wings in this time or to take to God’s tent forever, but it is, I think, understandable. Through our experience with Covid alone, our country has seen the need for mental health support increase dramatically in the past year and a half, and many of us who consider ourselves to be highly functioning individuals are weary and worn down (www.mhanational.org). Calling on God to shelter us in this time is not a weak response—it is human and, even faithful—but we are also called to action.
I have been in touch with our Migration Ministries Committee this week, and we are awaiting information on how we might be useful in resettling any influx of refugees coming to our country as a result of the crisis in Afghanistan. Right now, Church World Service and Catholic Charities (our partner agencies in this area) do not anticipate any immediate increase in refugee families coming to us, but that could likely change in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime, Episcopal Migration Ministries—one of the nine agencies in the US that assists with immediate care and resettlement of refugees and asylees—is ready to receive donations of any amount. A link to their materials is here: https://episcopalmigrationministries.org
Episcopal Relief and Development is working to respond to the recent earthquake in Haiti that has left more than 1,200 people dead, businesses and homes destroyed, and many citizens displaced. They, too, are ready to receive what we can offer to them in terms of financial support. A link to their website is here: https://www.episcopalrelief.org
I have made a contribution from my discretionary account to both of these agencies and hope that you will join me in your Sunday collection efforts giving as generously as you are able.
We pray for all those who have died and for those who continue their work to eradicate the Covid-19 virus. Thank you for your patience as we return to wearing masks in church and social distancing in most parts of our diocese where the transmission rate is substantial or high. Worship, prayer, and sacramental nurture is vital for us, and I pray that we can continue to gather safely in this time and the days to come. Getting vaccinated (if you are able) and wearing a mask—including those who are already vaccinated—is an important act of servant ministry and demonstrates our love of neighbor and care for the most vulnerable among us.
One of the things that I have gained from this time of pandemic is a greater awareness of our global family. Even though we have spent much of the past year and a half in isolation, it has brought an increasing awareness of our connection to all of God’s human family and how our hopes and desires are the same: we yearn for peace, safety, health, and lives lived not in fear, but in joy and companionship. May it be so.
O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom; Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP pg. 99)
With gratitude for all of you, and in the Way of Love,
The Rt. Rev. Audrey C. Scanlan