Friday, April 10th, 2020
This year, the sacredness of Holy Week is both profound and acute. Because of our physical separation, our prayers are more heartfelt, the longing for the Holy Eucharist is intense, and anticipation for our reunion is growing. In ways that cannot be seen, we, in some way, are partaking in the suffering of our Lord. Yet our faith, strength, and hope are found in the truth that resounds throughout eternity - He is Risen. Nothing can stop the reality of the resurrection. The stone will be rolled away and the tomb found empty. He is Risen!
No one could have imagined these past 40 days of Lent. This time has been challenging and frightening. However, in the darkness of this uncertainty, the light of hope has strengthened us as a people of faith. We have grown even closer as a diocesan family. Creativity and necessity have increased our connectedness. Churches throughout the diocese are praying together as one. We are praying throughout the day and reaching out to one another in profound ways. Our local communities are witnessing the expansiveness of our love and the face of Christ.
As a people and a church, our priorities are shifting both internally and externally. We are demonstrating the faith of the early church, where sharing, goodness, kindness, empathy, and love are evident in our lives. The rays of light in this darkness have illumined the truth that we need one another, and we need God. We journey together as a people of God in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.
We are stepping into the light of the resurrection.
While this Easter will be different from any other Easter in our lifetime, it is also the first Easter of our new life together. The early church celebrated Easter in much the same way - in their homes. Their prayers and faith connected them with their fellow Christians throughout the world. We are doing the same in 2020. Easter will prepare, encourage, and strengthen us. We step forth into this Easter with the knowledge of the eternal promise - that our past is forgiven, we will never be abandoned, our future is secure, and we will rise in the light of Jesus Christ.
On Easter Sunday, join your church and your siblings throughout the diocese in the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. Let us wake the neighbors with the shout, “He is Risen.” At 10:00, I am asking all the churches in the diocese to ring their bells so that the entirety of Southeastern Pennsylvania can hear our faith. In your own homes, ring bells, clang pans, blow a trumpet, and rejoice. Let everyone hear our Easter joy! Take a chance and invite people to attend a service online and then call them afterward and wish them a Blessed Easter. Call someone who is alone and do the same. And, on Easter morning share the images of your celebration - post the pictures of your Easter celebration using the hashtag #DiopaEaster.
I also have two special requests. First, I ask that you send your clergy a note to offer your gratitude for their faithfulness and presence during this time and for the days to follow. Second, I am also humbly making a special appeal that you make your Easter offering and continue with your pledge. Go online or mail in your sacred gifts, so that the work of our churches can continue to engage in vital ministries during this time. Our clergy and your siblings in Christ need you, and your gifts make it possible. Together, we will also strengthen our churches for the day we enter into a new and beautiful world.
Our faith is not enclosed, it is being radiated with the glory of the empty tomb. Yes, we will have challenges in the days ahead, but we have hope, love, one another, and we have Jesus Christ. What more could we ask for? This will pass. We will be together as a church and we will rejoice as a people of God. At the end of this temporary time, we will find a Church that is stronger, a faith that is deeper and a love that will transcend any distance. At the center of this knowing is a Risen Christ.
My dear and beloved diocesan family, I hold you in prayer and my love for you is beyond description. I bless you with every blessing ever spoken. May you have a most Holy Easter.
He is Risen, and He is with us right now.
The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania