A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Jack McKelvey, the Episcopal bishop for the Diocese of Rochester and a member of the Colleges' Board of Trustees, wrote a letter Jan. 27 to the members of the Episcopal Church in the Rochester diocese. His letter is below.
I write this letter because of my care and concern for you during these trying times. Fear is all around us because thoughts of the future present terrifying images. Perhaps war is what the future holds, perhaps not. Nevertheless, the threat of war frustrates, divides, and frightens us until as a people we begin to believe we are powerless to think or act. In this time of “tinder box” sensitivity, personal defenses become reactive, driven by the grief and anxiety that is ours both personally and as a nation since September 11, 2001.
Before any shots have been fired we are experiencing some of the worst that war can bring to the world. Already, we see families, relationships, and communities being emotionally and literally torn apart as fathers, mothers, friends, sons and daughters are being shipped or flown to far and distant lands, with all involved wondering silently who will return. We see escalating name-calling, not only of those of other countries, but of each other as we discover differing opinions, questions and ideas. We see services being withdrawn from the poor. Those who have little or no voice in our society find their priorities moved down the budgetary lists in times like these. In the news, we see fear on the faces of the people of Iraq, who are living with precisely the same fears as ours about the future. We acknowledge the great weight of decision-making that is on the shoulders of our President and other governmental authorities.
Last Sunday we heard the story of Jesus' call to four fishermen to follow. Their response was immediate. Our call comes through baptism, and our engagement of our baptismal vows as adults. Our response is far more labored. For us it is a time to struggle to understand what those vows mean for each of us as members of a faith community and as citizens of a free and powerful nation. It is both our responsibility as Christians and our privilege as Americans to do this openly, honestly, and compassionately. As Anglicans, we have always valued the discussion of opinions from opposite poles, believing that in tension something as wondrous as the pearl of great price will emerge. I urge you to hear those prophetic voices in our midst who cannot condone the path we are on. They must be heard and honored. Voices from every corner of the nation are expressing concern about unilateral declaration of war. People want to know what the “convincing evidence” to which the government constantly refers actually is. No more appropriate place exists than our worshipping communities for the prayerful examination of these issues.
We are blessed with the Book of Common Prayer, which holds in it many prayers that can begin to guide individual and corporate worship, conversations and forums, and active response to these perilous issues. I commend those prayers beginning on page 814. Some that are important to me are #3, for the Human Family; #4, for Peace; #5 for peace among Nations; #6, for our enemies; #25, for those in the Armed Forces of our Country; #58, for Guidance; and 62, a prayer attributed to St. Francis. There are many others.
In this season of Epiphany, my hope is that we will be beacons of the Light by the prayers we offer, the concern we show, the discussions we have, and, above all, the way we act. Anglicans have a long and honored history of being involved in the world, thoughtfully and prayerfully committed, and servants of God and nation, knowing ourselves ultimately judged by a merciful God who loves and holds all of creation.
I urge congregations to be intentional about providing opportunities and space to share our fears with one another, keeping the dialogue open, honoring those who speak both for and against the issues and decisions being made. Together we will . . . “walk into that sometimes fearful future, knowing only that God will be there to greet us.”
Jack M. McKelvey
Bishop of Rochester