Rev. Donald L. Perryman, PhD
President, United Pastors for Social Empowerment
On Wednesday, April 8th, our Jewish friends will celebrate the old, old holy time of the Passover. Each year, a Jewish child asks at the Passover meal, “Why do we do these things? What do we mean by this service?” You, pastors and leaders of the church, know the answer. You know the story. It was necessary that the people of Israel do a series of particular things in a particular way, sacrifice a lamb, eat it hurriedly with loins girded, each in their own house. You know what they did with the blood on the frames of their doors. And you know why they did this – there was danger coming.
Jesus also celebrated the Passover and even when he was raised, the story goes, his followers met with closed doors, carefully. At this time, in order to promote the health and well-being of our whole city, we too must do particular things–follow God’s will, if you’ll take that directive.
We must each go to our own houses like the ancient Israelites and remain until our ‘passover’ of COVID-19 has finished. We must encourage our people to stay safe, and we must model the safety we want our people to have by extending our carefulness into our houses of worship — praising God with only the minimum people there, making a service or ceremony by livestream or prerecording, even reducing the number of musicians to one or two and keeping them six feet away from one another. The thoughts of grace and divine protection are good, but please, make it easy on all, especially our doctors and nurses, and let sacred focus be on those who truly need it. For example, we are called to care for the people who cannot afford their own lamb to sacrifice and to protect themselves (Exodus 12:4); there are lots of people who need help during this ‘passover’ without risking exposure to the virus itself.
God is working, as you all are preaching, in this time, through the hands of the health care workers, through the gifts of public health officials who are warning us to stay in our homes. God is working through the ways that you are encouraging your people each day through emails, texts, phone calls, and video conferences, reminding them that they have overcome greater troubles than this. Please, stay inside. Please hold your worship alone in the sanctuary like Moses on the mountain, if possible. And, please keep the people safe in their homes, at the foot of the mountain for these “forty days.” We must not be like the Egyptians in the biblical account, who disregarded these practices and God’s warnings to us. We must keep our people safe as they move into freedom.
Clergy in Isolated Community:
Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, United Pastors for Social Empowerment
Bishop Dr. Robert A. Culp, Toledo Community Coalition
Dr. Cedric Brock, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance
Rev. Robert Birt, D.Min., Toledoans United for Social Action
Rev. Rose Russell, Methodist Ministers Affiliation