Spring 2020 officially began at 11:50 pm on March 19.  It’s strange how spring seems to jump around; one date this year and another the next (though there are reasons for that, now is not the time to go into them). This year marked the earliest start of spring in 124 years (since 1896).

When we think of spring, we often think of new beginnings (and warmer weather). I think we can begin to expect many new beginnings as we experience, and anticipate, the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on our communities, especially our church communities. I’m assuming that most of you have set aside your gathered worship due to the recommendations of the President and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). We all have a part in limiting the spread of this virus, and postponing our gathered worship services will help in many different ways.

Did you notice that I didn’t say “cancel” our worship services? “Postponing our gathered worship” is, by no means, a declaration that worship is cancelled. Worship of God can, and will, happen anywhere because God is everywhere.

We can foster worship by providing new ways for our congregations to worship together even while apart. Some congregations are using Facebook Live, Zoom and other electronic means to gather in worship. Others are communicating by email and sending information via regular post to those who don’t have internet access. The congregation I serve will be gathering to worship by Zoom video (and phone) conferencing. The PCUSA will be having a streamed Easter Sunday service which we are all invited to share in — email them directly to learn more. It’s exciting to see all of these new efforts springing up! Whatever we do to serve people and glorify God in this difficult time will result in a building up of our communities of faith. These are hard times, and harder times are coming, but God is at work. Let’s be on the lookout to join in!

In addition to frequently washing our hands, avoiding touching our face, and sanitizing things that we, or others, touch, “social distancing” is a way of combatting the virus’ spread by reducing close physical contact between persons carrying an infection and others who are not infected. The current CDC recommendation is to stay six feet away from each other. But while such physical distancing is good, “social distancing” has a lot of problems associated with it. It brings isolation and loneliness, lack of community and more. I read someone who said that a better term for that kind of protection would be “physical distancing.” I urge you to look for ways to stay socially close even while you are physically distant. Call, email, use Facebook or Instagram, send pigeons, talk through windows, whatever it takes to keep socially and emotionally close!

Keep as safe as you can by being as separate—physically—as you can be, but keep close together and pray for one another, building our social community by reaching out to draw others in.

You are all in my prayers,
Michael Burkley
Moderator, Albany Presbytery


God of compassion, you have given birth to us through your love. You have called us to be your own, not as slaves but as friends and even more than friends—family. It is by the obedience and love of your son, Jesus Christ, that we have been redeemed from the death of sin. Thank you. Lord, today we are facing the possibility of death and suffering in our communities in ways that we have never faced before. We are struggling to know how to live in community, not only as the Church but as members of our secular communities and nation. Give us wisdom and strength and courage to follow you wherever there is a need. Comfort us in our worries and fears; remind us that you are the God who loves us with an eternal love, so that we might come alongside of others and bring your comfort to them. We pray this prayer for the cause of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Strength. Amen.

About Rev. Michael Burkley

Michael has been a pastor for almost 34 years (unbelievably to him) and for over 12 of those years he has had the privilege of serving in Albany Presbytery as the pastor of the Rockwell Falls Presbyterian Church. He is currently serving as the 2020 Moderator of Albany Presbytery and is very glad to be serving God here with us.

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