A place for church: a letter to the editor from Pastor Aaron Gray

April 14, 2020

Submitted by Rev. Aaron Gray
Pastor, Christ United Methodist Church
Fort Collins, CO

I greet you in the name of our Christ and trust that you are well. I am writing to be a part of a broader conversation. That is a part of the world and this certainly includes wherever we live.

Separation and division and any other words in the field are the words that describe the conditions in which we are living at this time. Between both the social and political structure, there is division, and regardless of where we may stand on impeachment, or depending on your perspective of the past three years, we are divided.

I personally felt that this was the moment to raise a prophetic voice and dare to say - there is a word from the Lord. But the Church is divided as well, and in my judgment what it is disagreeing on is important.  Yet, believing that there is a God who is just and who through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is a God of love.

Thankfully, God keeps giving us chances and COVID-19 is another chance.

The Church is closed. I am not talking about our physical space.

As I understand it and recognize that scientists are gifts from God, I feel the Church is closed when all that is within us and with every resource we may have, we need to proclaim the words that are found in our social principles. We proclaim to those who are in power that they are falling short. The time is described as hopeless and yet, we say that we serve a God who is the hope of the world. It is not that we are doing nothing. We are just not doing enough. It seems as though the conversation has moved to our place.

I am talking about the disease. It seems to have moved from community to community. We have said this is where the Church can grow. At this moment, it is not in terms of numbers, but in terms of a broader influence that we are seen in service. Also, we hear and understand that our response is one with great empathy and as people who are at home, it is with devotion and learning new things about each other and about ourselves.

And God understands our loneliness and, yes, our grief. And in our community, we model social distancing, but we also model what is the purpose of prayer and how we can be united in love. Our language and actions are different in the next two weeks, which are said to be crucial. Even without a filled sanctuary, we own there is a Good Friday – but also Easter Sunday. And we know how to count days for Pentecost is coming. In all of these things, there is transformation and new life.

I believe we can make a difference if we are not focused on ourselves only. I have a feeling we all have the same attitude in that we long for things to be different in this crisis. The way we are best prepared is naming ourselves as instruments of hope and believing that the vitality of community, both locally and globally, is our goal.

If our Bishops had a world-wide commercial to advocate for change in the systems, while extending God’s love – it would be remembered more than an evangelical pastor who was arrested. It is going to be seen as out of the box thinking and acting this way:

”And now abides faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is Love.” 

1 Corinthians 13:13

Rev. Aaron M. Gray, Christ UMC, Fort Collins