A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud

A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud

We’ve been getting a few questions in the Office of the Bishop about “late pandemic” worship practices. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — It’s not time yet. It’s not time yet for large gatherings indoors, singing in worship, leaving masks in the glove compartment, forgetting science, and ignoring local health department guidelines. Just because the Supreme Court says we can worship indoors, doesn’t mean we should. Please remember that while many people have been vaccinated, not everyone (including many or our pastors and musicians) have been able to be fully vaccinated. It is time for outdoor worship (socially distanced), wearing masks, getting fully vaccinated, planning for getting back to indoor worship, maintaining a robust online presence for worship, determining best safety practices and policies for a return to indoor worship, and using common sense.

I hear people say they are tired of waiting for life to “get back to normal.” I admit, there are times when I am tired of waiting, too. Yet there are many people in this country who have been waiting for longer than a year for hope, peace, safety, and justice. It might be helpful for us to gain some perspective on our waiting by remembering the waiting that others are doing. Waiting that is about more than inconvenience, or not being able to do things we had often taken for granted. I’m aware that the waiting I’m doing is more about my privilege, and less about my life being threatened or taken.

Black and Brown People have long been waiting – while suffering injustices at the hands of police and those who commit acts of violence against them. The families of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Ahmed Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, Dijon Kizzee, and George Floyd have been waiting for justice for their loved ones. Thankfully, yesterday afternoon a just verdict was rendered in the case of the murder of George Floyd. Even so, since the start of the trial for the murder of George Floyd, 20 year-old Daunte Wright and 13 year-old Adam Toledo were shot by police. Why was Duante Wright pulled over? Police have reported that he had “an air freshener hanging from his rear view mirror.” I invite you to read a letter from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton about these injustices and our call as a church to add our voices and actions to those who have been crying out for justice. Cries of “Say their names” and “Black Lives Matter” continue to be heard. Even with yesterday’s verdict, the hopeful waiting of many for safety, peace and justice goes on.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are also waiting — suffering through anti-Asian violence which has risen dramatically, most notably after political leaders used racist terms to describe the name and origin of Coronavirus. These racist characterizations have encouraged unprovoked attacks which have led to serious injury and death. Last week, four Sikh workers were killed during a workplace shooting in Indianapolis. Vigils for Armajit Sekhon, Jaswinder Kaur, Armarjeet Kaur Johal and Jaswinder Singh have been held around the country, including at the California State Capitol. Other vigils protesting anti-Asian violence have been held, and yet the violence continues. Please take a moment to read this statement from our ELCA — Statement on anti-Asian Racism – ELCA.  The hopeful waiting of many for safety, peace and justice goes on.

Finally, a family in Stockton has been waiting for justice and peace for twenty-five years. News reports in the past two weeks have detailed a break in the missing person case of Kristin Smart. Kristin, then a first year student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, disappeared over Memorial Day Weekend in 1996. Our family and the Smart family have had many connections in the community of Stockton over the years — our children attended the same schools and played on soccer teams together; Denise, Stan and Debbi are all educators. The recent arrest of a person previously identified as a “person of interest” in the case has been a development for which this family has long been waiting. Evidence was recently gathered which now leads authorities to state that Kristin was raped and murdered before her body was taken to an as-yet-unknown location.

Stories of the rape, murder and disappearance of women and girls are sadly not rare occurrences. Many families have been waiting for years for justice for their loved ones. Our church has called for an end to Gender Based violence — Social Message on Gender-based Violence— and we are called to work for an end to this violence in our communities.  I stood with Denise in the State Capitol when the “Kristin Smart Campus Safety Act” was signed by Governor Wilson in 1998. When Kristin had been missing for five years, I was asked to preside at a memorial service for her in 2001. Her family’s search for Kristin will not be complete until her body is found and she can finally be laid to rest in a place of their choosing. Their hopeful waiting for peace and justice goes on. Your prayers for the Smart family in these days will be much appreciated.

So yes, our waiting for this pandemic to be over continues. While we are waiting, please remember to pray with, advocate for, and stand with all who are waiting for safety, justice and peace. It’s the most likely place you will meet Jesus on this journey.

Bp. Mark