Pastoral Letter

Dear United Methodist in the Nordic and Baltic countries,

For more than a month our societies have been closed, and we have not been able to enter our churches.
Physical distance, restrictions and working from home have become new behavior and part of our everyday life. At this point, we don’t know when we will be able to return to something close to “normal”.
We are all experiencing the stress and frustration caused by the long-running limitations to our lives. Some of you grieve the loss of loved ones due to the Corona virus.  Some are feeling isolated and lonely; others experience the pain of being unable to visit relatives in the hospital or in the nursing home. Some have lost their job, and many are worried about the future. Anxiety and fear of infection is sneaking in on us, when we go to the grocery store, or when schools and kindergartens begin to open up.

The Corona virus is a powerful reminder of our shared humanity, it infects the rich and the poor, and it doesn’t discriminate by race or religion. We are all vulnerable, and we can all die from it.

Two months ago, most of us were unable to imagine what we are experiencing right now. Now we know that in spite of our advanced science and technology our lives and our societies are without exception fragile – we are all in God’s hands.

In his Second letter to the church in Corinth (chapter 5) Paul says: So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation……… So, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

I firmly believe that we, the church, United Methodists together with all other Christians, should be a resource to our societies and to all people not least in these special times.

We are ambassador for Jesus Christ, to bring reconciliation and hope into the current reality. Though we may struggle ourselves, Christ has taught us that faith and hope in him is the antidote to the anxiety and fear, we are experiencing. He has taught us that he is present in the midst of despair and hopelessness. We know how to pray, we know the peace beyond comprehension, the peace that only Jesus can give.

I am impressed and proud of the way our pastors and leaders are handling this crisis. Quickly they shifted to online church, live streaming worship, messages and devotions. Churches offer drive in worship, they deliver food to people unable to leave their homes, and they hand out food packages for people in need of a helping hand. Some churches have even brought gifts and snacks to encourage doctors, nurses and health personnel at the local hospital. Many are organizing prayer chains.  Many use the telephone as the most important tool to connect with people, phone chains, phone counseling and reaching out to those living alone. Churches have learned to meet online for prayer and small group gatherings. We are exploring new ways of being church, and we are making important learnings that we will take with us into the future. Thank you for your ministry.

Though we cannot gather for worship and bring our offerings, I ask you; please continue to support your local church financially - we wish to be church both during and after this challenging time.

Due to your work situation, some of you may not have the same financial means as before the pandemic, others spend less as stores are closed. Still I encourage you to continue to support your local church with your offerings.

We may need to live with the current situation for a prolonged period. Many of you may get tired and weary, which is only natural. Nevertheless, I urge you not to give up. The Church and our witness are needed, more than they has been for several decades. Hold out and hold on, God will lead us through this and into His future.

Together, we will prayerfully move forward in the ministry of reconciliation.

May God bless you with hope

Christian Alsted