Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

A Word to the Beloved

May 14, 2021

Dearly beloved,

Jesus’ teachings on love have one common theme and purpose. The love of Christ is an unconditional welcome, and its purpose is that it is known by its cost when practiced. “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another” in John 13:35 is a costly call to discipleship. 

We have been at the crossroads of testing this cost in real-time as a body of Christ! We are baptized and not baptized, and a whole litany of mixed identities. That's what makes us a diverse body of Christ. We have painstakingly taken many years to correct this belonging narrative and its practice to align with Jesus’ teachings. However, we know now that we are all welcome in this place, which we tenderly create with Christ. We build this beloved community tenuously as in one meal or one offering at a time, like a Eucharist or a mandala. Most of us would not be here if we had gatekeepers who qualified “all are welcome” by saying, “except....!” Our welcome in Christ is unconditional because there is room for all of us, vaccinated or not. Vaccination is a privilege, and I encourage everyone eligible to get vaccinated, as long as you have credible scientists and doctors who have endorsed it. In places like India, that credibility is tenuous right now. 

I have heard of tension among leaders in our church debating whether to require vaccinations as a passport of entry to in-person worship. Let me gently say that such a practice would be a manifestation of purity/pollution and hence not an approach to adapt to any iteration of the Beloved Christian Community. It is equivalent to strategic segregation--which could be justified in any world, but not in the church. Therefore, as your friend and fellow traveler in Christ, I do not endorse such strategies. Let us instead persuade one another in love to get vaccinated, wear our masks as appropriate and safeguard each other’s dignity.

I also ask your prayers for peace in the Holy Land and relief in places where COVID rages like India, Brazil, the UK, Ireland, Iran, South Africa, and other lands. We continue our prayers for victims and the culture of gun violence in our city and country. We remember all who have died and lift loved ones who mourn around the world. We pray to restore body, mind, humor, and will for all medical professionals and others who serve their neighbors tirelessly.