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The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

Messages from Bishop Mark

Shepherds Among Us

Posted by The Rt. Rev. Mark D. W. Edington on

This Sunday brings around the familiar image of the Good Shepherd. We hear the comforting words of the twenty-third psalm again; we hear Jesus describe himself in John’s gospel as the “gate for the sheep.” And he tells us something more about what it means to be a good shepherd; it means to lead people to abundant life.
There is something else that good shepherds do, something that has come to new significance in all our lives in these past weeks of isolation, distancing, and artificial alienation from each other. The clue to it is in the reading we’ll hear on Sunday from the Acts of the Apostles, simply this: “All who believed were together….”
Good shepherds are the people who bring believers together. There is no better or more complete description of what they do. And they do it out of a deep understanding of the connection between our being together and Jesus’s desire for all people that they know life abundantly. There is no abundant life in isolation.
The Good Shepherds have been sprouting up among us in these past weeks. They are our amazing clergy and our creative digital ministry leaders, the people who have embraced the challenge of bring us together in a time when that simple act of leadership faces tremendous obstacles. They have refused to allow us to fall into the disconsolation of distance; they have found ways to bring us together, to knit us together, to keep us together—even though we must be apart.
No, virtual worship is not the same as worship in the church. But all of us need to prepare ourselves for this: As we move toward cautiously reopening our churches, the worship we experience there won’t be the same as what we know. It will be awkward; it will feel artificial and distant; it may even feel a little sad.
And still our Good Shepherds will be there—keeping us together, even as they make sure we are keeping a safe distance apart. Hosting online worship for those still too much at risk to come into a crowd, gathering us in virtual coffee hours, teaching us in online Bible studies, making sure we remain the connected Beloved Community. 
I will be spending my Sunday giving thanks for the good shepherds among us who have tended us and kept us together in these days. One of the surest signs of God’s continual and abundant love for us is the abiding presence of good shepherds in our midst; I hope you will thank them, too.
The Right Reverend Mark D. W. Edington
Bishop in Charge
Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

Tags: leadership, gathering, online church, coronavirus