The bishop gave examples of more than a dozen churches in the conference that have gone above and beyond the call in reaching out to their communities and maintaining relationships with their own congregations despite restrictions on crowd sizes.
“It has been brutal, and many lives have been taken,” he said. “And we have learned so much about the vulnerabilities in our society. But also, the strength and the resilience and the creativity. It has given us an opportunity to pause, to stop, to figure out what is important in our life — to figure out what we need to keep, what we need to discard, and what we need to change.”
Bishop Saenz also thanked the clergy of the conference, many of whom he said had become “televangelists” thanks to livestreaming efforts that were new to many of them.
“The Gospel has been unleashed through your particular way of delivering it and proclaiming it in your unique context of ministry,” he said. “This type of church is not going to go away. It’s going to be a part of how we do church moving forward, and how we continue to proclaim the grace and favor of Christ to the whole world.”
The opening worship included music and a scripture reading recorded by laity in Kansas and Nebraska.
Speaking from Acts 1:1-5, Bishop Saenz preached on the “gap time” between Christ’s resurrection and ascension.
“The gap days between the resurrection and the ascension were a season of discontinuity between what was and what was going to be, or what could be,” he said. “It was a season that disrupted life as normal and created a time and a space to pause, to step back, to reflect, to discern, and to reimagine what the world could look like in the light of the resurrection.”
Likewise, the bishop said, in the past few months we are “all taking a breath, wondering what life will be like when we move past this pandemic.”
“As a church, we have found a way to be the church and to connect with the world that has always been waiting for the church to be a church of mercy and grace and God’s outreach and love,” Bishop Saenz said. “We have found out things about ourselves that we knew were always there — we just didn’t have enough of a reason to want to unleash it.”
With the help of each other and a faith in God, the bishop said, that spirit can continue.
“We are not alone. We are walking with each other through this. We are walking with our neighbors near and far,” Bishop Saenz said. “It’s been a tough year in so many ways, and it may get even tougher. But we do not go at it alone. God is with us. We have each other. The spirit is guiding.”