Soul Food - March 3, 2021

Soul Food - March 3, 2021

Active Discipleship in a Time of Pandemic

For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. (Matthew 25:14-15)

As we quickly approach a full year under the cloud of the global COVID-19 pandemic it is a good time to reflect on what this past year has meant to us.  It has been difficult, it has been depressing, it has been dangerous, it has been frustrating.  The year has seen widespread fear and anxiety, illness and death, lifelong impact, and family despair.  It has kept us home, away from schools and churches, and restaurants, and businesses.  It has disrupted sports and entertainment.  It has created Netflix and Zoom addictions.  It has not been a fun year.
Yet, it is too easy to simply focus on what we have lost, what we have missed, and what we cannot do.  It is too easy to fixate on our personal inconveniences and annoyances.  It is too easy to be overwhelmed by the health, economic, employment, environmental, and educational negatives.  I want to shift the focus to applaud the amazing versatility, adaptability, and creativity of our laity and clergy leaders in Wisconsin during this difficult time.

First, the use of the Internet, Zoom, YouTube, and other platforms to offer worship, fellowship, learning, counseling, meeting, and support has been nothing short of amazing.  Some of our congregations have actually grown during the pandemic by reaching new people in new ways.  We have reconnected with shut-ins and those who have moved away.  We are in many cases more connected and more productive than ever before.  Kudos to the great ingenuity and innovation of our church leaders.
Second, the outpouring of funds and other resources to ministry has been incredible.  Our Conference apportionments almost met their intended goal and we received the financial support faithfully that allows us to continue to do ministry across the Conference in each of our districts.  I want you to know my appreciation for your faithful giving.  And this extends to the local churches as well.  Most report no significant decrease in local church support this past year.  Thanks also to our United Methodist Foundation for the grants and aid they have offered through this challenging time.

Third, I am deeply impressed by the outreach ministry I am seeing in every area of our state.  Support for homeless shelters, food banks, clothes closets, feeding programs, disaster response, counseling, and domestic violence response, have increased almost everywhere.  People are organizing responses and services for those lives lost in the pandemic, support for early responders, doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, assisted living, and retirement home staff members.  Church members have gotten organized and active in writing to their congressional representatives and the president, calling for pandemic aid, racial justice initiatives, support for ethical and effective law enforcement, media accountability, election reforms, and supplies for the most vulnerable in our country and world.  Many of our Wisconsin United Methodists are more active in ministry during this pandemic than they ever have been before.  I am seeing a wonderful shift from passive discipleship to active discipleship wherever I look.

So, I offer both encouragement and invitation – get active.  Use your phone, your computer, the U.S. mail to communicate and organize.  Attend webinars and online forums, many of which are seeking volunteers to make calls and help align resources to offer care for others.  Connect with your own church people as much as possible.  Make the commitment to focus on what you CAN do instead of what you can’t.  Ask God’s guidance, individually and together, for ways you can engage in faithful service during this time of separation.
In times of difficulty, peril, and distress, it is more important than ever for the church to offer a faithful witness.  Together, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, God can do great things with and through us.  Let us rejoice in the opportunities we have been given in the days of COVID-19 to be God’s hands, feet, and voice in the world.  Well done, good and faithful servants!


Hee-Soo Jung

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).