March 24, 2020
Dear Park Street Church Family,
Greetings in the wonderful and beautiful name of Jesus, the one who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13.8).
These past few weeks have been extraordinary as we deal with the pandemic and with the dramatic changes it has caused in our lives, in our schooling, in our work, in our worship, and in our way of being the church. As this virus spreads, more are getting sick and hospitals are beginning to be stretched, and all this inclines many of us to fear and anxiety. It’s a time of unprecedented disruption on a global scale, at least in the modern world, and it looks as though this disruption is going to remain for some time.
This is, admittedly, an unusual moment for me to be joining all of you as your Senior Minister, but I trust that God knew this would be the case long ago. His timing is always right. I’m eager to get to know you and to be face to face (and not just screen to screen!). Until then, we’ll do our best with virtual connections, beginning as I preach this Sunday during our streamed worship services.
In the midst of this pandemic, I want us to remember several things:
- God is on the throne. He is ruling and reigning over the world and our lives, and he loves us more than we can fully comprehend. This is a love from which nothing can separate us—not death, not this pandemic, not an economic downturn. Nothing. Remember and rest in that love.
- We are a people, a family. The church is not a worship service. It’s a diverse and united family of those who worship God in spirit and in truth. That means that you and I are not alone, and we’re not meant to manage our varied responses to this pandemic alone. If you are alone, please reach out and know that we are trying to reach out to you as well.
- We are a praying people. I love the psalms. They have taught me how to pray. One of their main lessons is this: be honest with God. He can handle it. Are you anxious? Frustrated? Angry? Annoyed? Tell him. Start there in prayer. We are called to pour our hearts out to him (Ps 62.8), and to cast our anxieties on God because he cares for us (1 Pt 5.7). In addition to being honest, intercede for one another, for your colleagues, for elected leaders, for your neighbors, and for the vulnerable. God hears and God has what this pandemic so clearly shows us that we lack: power.
- We are witnesses. This is always true, but trials allow us to bear witness in a uniquely powerful way. E. Stanley Jones, a Methodist missionary to India (d. 1973), wrote, “You are to find your finest opportunity for witnessing through these very troubles. In other words, you are not to bear your calamities, you are to use them. You are to turn your trials to a testimony.” How might we, the church, turn the trial of this pandemic into a testimony about Jesus? In many ways, no doubt, but let me suggest that we can do so by being a non-anxious community of worshipers who care for the vulnerable and love one another and our neighbors.
I’ve been encouraged by the thoughtful and clear leadership of our staff and elders over the past few weeks. Their focus on worshiping God, caring for the vulnerable, shepherding the flock, and reaching the lost has been so helpful to us all. As I join the team, I aim to help us continue to grow in these areas.
The opportunities in front of us are great, and I am filled with courage as we move forward because we serve a God for whom nothing is impossible. Let’s press into him and depend upon him. May we, together, lift up the name of Jesus above all in such a time as this, in our own lives, in our city, in New England, in the nation, and across the world, “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel and not frightened in anything” (Phil 1.27).
I’m excited to be here, and I look forward to sharing life with all of you!
The Rev. Mark L. Booker