A Letter to Public Officials
from Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania
March 17, 2020
To Public Health & Civic Officials in Pennsylvania, especially in Southwest Pennsylvania:
Grace and peace to each of you in these very challenging days. I’m writing today on behalf of the Christian Associates Council of Bishops and Judicatory Executives. The Council consists of the leaders of 28 regional church bodies (dioceses, presbyteries, conferences, synods, etc) that include nearly 2000 local congregations throughout the 10 counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland.
At our meeting on March 11, the Council asked me to reach out to you to in support and solidarity as you navigate these unprecedented days of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is much that churches are ready and willing to offer our communities.
First, we offer our prayers and those of our churches. As you work long hours, make difficult decisions, and wrestle with threats both present and emerging, please know you are being held in our concern and in God’s loving care. We pray that you may continue in good health and in strong courage, that you might be blessed with wisdom and prudence, and that there may be glimpses of hope even in the midst of these hard times. “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble,” we read in Psalm 46, and we pray that present help might be strongly felt by each of you.
Second, we offer our advice on religious matters should it be useful to you. For example, in the 2004-5 preparations for a possible avian flu pandemic, Christian Associates worked with then-Allegheny County Medical Director Dr. Bruce Dixon to think through what might happen should mass cremations become necessary. They reaching an agreement to store the bodies of Eastern Orthodox Christians, whose faith does not permit cremation, under refrigeration until the crisis passed. As you encounter questions about Christian practices that might affect the region’s response, do not hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns.
Third, we offer the resources of our churches, in whatever ways they might be most useful to you.
We offer our communication networks: our ability to share accurate and timely information across the region via church publications, social media, and electronic mailing lists. If there are messages you need us to convey to our members, we are ready. In the meantime, we have created a list of resources on our website, www.casp.org/covid19.
We offer our volunteers. We are eager to continue caring for our vulnerable neighbors, and are ready to help with meal programs, sheltering, childcare, spiritual care, or simply reaching out to the lonely. If there is a particular need where person-power is required, we hope you will call on the churches.
We offer our space. There are church buildings in virtually every neighborhood across the region. Many of these buildings have large fellowship halls, commercial kitchens, and ample parking. In the 1918 flu pandemic, Calvary Episcopal Church in East Liberty became a field hospital; while much has changed since then, if you have need of our spaces, we are ready to open them for your use.
As any of these needs arise, please reach out to me. I will be working remotely for the remainder of this month and likely beyond; my cell number is 412-523-6736.
I’ll close today with words the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth nearly two thousand years ago: "Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love … The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.”
Blessings to each of you.
The Rev. Liddy Barlow, Executive Minister
Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania
P.O. BOX 5241, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 • 412-688-9070 • www.casp.org
A unifying voice in the name of Jesus Christ for the mission of the Gospel and the wholeness of communities