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By Jennifer E. Copeland, Ph.D., Executive Director, North Carolina Council of Churches

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I greet you on behalf of the North Carolina Council of Churches and the 18 denominations that make up our membership. We are stronger together and strong for you.

Hear these words from the prophet Isaiah, who also knew something about dealing with the unknown. 

Isaiah 43:1-3

But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

These words from Isaiah remind us that are a few things that never change in this ever-changing and challenging world. God calls each of us by name. As we shelter in place, perhaps wondering if anyone knows we are here, we know we are known by God.

Even while this truth comforts us, we also know God expects us to know each other by name as well. We have incredible communication capacity in most places in this country. Let’s use everything we have: FaceTime, texting, Instagram. If smart technology is not your style, phones still work really well for real conversations. Sometimes my own children have to remind me of this. When we’re in a texting marathon, one of them will call and say, “I thought it would just be easier to talk.” So, let’s all talk more, especially those who may be experiencing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Let’s name those people even as God names each of us. 

This is also a time for us to get creative about caring for those around us. The young and healthy among us should be intentional about naming the old and infirm. Those who cannot risk public exposure still need basic supplies and food. All across the land, people are forming support groups to run errands, pick up supplies, and otherwise care for those who cannot and should not leave their homes. Let’s name those people even as God names each of us.

And finally, let’s feed our own souls. Some of us have the unexpected gift of time. We can use this time to focus on things long neglected. We might do something as practical as organizing the file cabinet or as heartwarming as organizing old photos. You know those pictures, the ones you threw in a shoe box back in the days when we developed film and printed pictures. Whatever it is, find that thing that helps your soul soar. Listen as God calls your name.

Let us pray: God of comfort and strength, you have called us by name and we are yours. Reassure us of your presence even as many of us find ourselves all alone. For those on the front lines of service, we pray for your strength. For those caught between responsibility and safety, we pray for your guidance. For those who are ill, we pray for your healing. For each according to the yearning of our hearts, call our names, for we are yours. Amen.