2020 Gathering – an update

A Letter from the EP Board to the EP Community,

After considering the ongoing reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to cancel this summer’s Gathering. The scheduled theme “Discipleship in a Technological Age” and its programming (including location, enlisted plenaries, preachers, worship services, forums, etc.) will be moved back one year to Summer 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc across the world, and certainly in the United States, where the death toll has reached well over 10,000, with estimates surpassing 80,000 by summer’s end. For the foreseeable future, most of the country will remain under shelter-in-place directives aimed at flattening the curve of the disease’s spread and buying time for overwhelmed medical services. Much of America’s infrastructure has shut down, with untold consequences for the global economy and the world’s most vulnerable. As you well know, churches can no longer meet in person, a devastating reality in any context, but especially so during the church’s highest holy season. Resurrection tells us that dividing walls have been brought down and the world now reconciled in Christ can come together. The church must now wrestle with what Resurrection means as we cannot physically be together.

In this context it simply did not make sense to continue with the Gathering as planned, much less begin the process of conference registration as we normally would at this time of year. Even if conditions were to dramatically improve by July, the sheer number of contingencies facing registrants makes it unwise to move ahead. We considered rearranging this summer’s Gathering to COVID-19 conditions (such as hosting a virtual meeting), but decided that the integrity of the planned program and the Gathering’s particular ways of being together were too important to seriously alter.

We do not make this decision lightly. For 20 consecutive years, the EP has gathered to be together, worship and learn together, be challenged and grow together, lament and celebrate together, where simply being together embodied for us the goodness of God’s deep love. COVID-19 has certainly revealed the fragility of the world’s many institutions and systems, including the great inequalities of the pandemic’s effects. But the plague has also illuminated the loveliness of God’s world, a loveliness that for us sinners often only becomes apparent when threatened. In those moments one is forced to decide what is important, and learn better how to hold it. Through this process, the Board has come to even greater appreciation for the Gathering, all that it means and does, and so deeply lament not being together this summer.

In the coming weeks, we will announce a number of EP-sponsored events for churches as they address the pandemic. While no substitute for the Gathering, these events, we hope, will foster some semblance of togetherness as churches wrestle with how to be church in this season. We believe EP’s storied church communities offer much needed resources that can inspire and equip churches during this time. You can expect a variety of on-line offerings, from the contemplative and worshipful to the practical and useful. We will soon be in touch about these offerings.

In all things, we find encouragement from you and all that we have heard and imagine your communities are doing to serve your neighbors. Holy Week tells us that God remains with us even in the deepest darkness, and that we can take heart knowing that Resurrection will in time lift the darkness, this current darkness and many others beside.

Thoughts for this present age.

We’ve all been adjusting to the changes that have occurred recently as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many friends and endorsers of EP have been writing about this experience and how we continue to live out our lives as followers of Christ. Some helpful information may not be explicitly Christian, but may help us navigate the challenges ahead. Links are below. Feel free to leave links to things that you’ve found helpful in the comments and we’ll add them to a resource list. The image is He Qi’s Peace Be Still. Here is a prayer from the Corrymella Community:


God of the good news that spreads faster than fear,
God of the courage that comes from the heart:
Be with us as anxieties rise and with us as uncertainty grows.
Be with us when children ask difficult questions,
and with us when parents seem farther away.
Remind us that to be a community does not always mean
to be physically present beside those we know well.
It also can mean being spiritually present
with those who feel very alone;
and that you as our God, the God made flesh,
are also the God who calls us from the tumult
and tells us to be still
and to know that you are God
with us.


In no particular order: 

In the Days of the Coronavirus   The Very Reverend Barkley Thompson

In Everything (Including Coronavirus) Turn Towards Jesus  Dale Gish

Improvising in a Pandemic  MaryAnn McKibben Dana

The Shift Americans Must Make to Fight the Coronavirus  Meghan O’Rourke

Churches Should Think Twice Before Webcasting Their Worship Services  C. Christopher Smith

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent: Home Edition (facebook video)  Fritz Bauerschmidt

CORONAVIRUS: God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways (facebook video)  Fr. Richard J. Bozzelli




We See What We Say

Because we live in a world marked by nationalism, racism, and horrific violence, we need voices that can help us lament, voices that can call us to prayer, and voices that can point us to faithful action and engagement with those around us. This week, we’re sharing a piece written by EP member and longtime board chair Debra Dean Murphy.
It is our prayer that Debra’s short but powerful piece, “We See What We Say,” will help guide you to faithful words and actions in the midst of a week of grief and anger.

Fear and Hospitality

EP endorser Kelly Johnson recently published some reflections on “Overcoming the Fear of Beggars” over at Catholic Moral Theology. As we pray and grieve and wrestle with how we might respond to the events of the past week, her words are especially timely:
“Overcoming the Fear of Beggars”
Photo Credit: Us News & World Report