In our daily work as pastors and faith community leaders, we from the Treasure Valley Cluster of Churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have heard your stories, witnessed your frustration and tears, sat with you in your weariness. This pandemic wears on us all, but we have seen that you bear a disproportionate burden.

We know that it is not just you; we share the same concern for teachers and many others. But in these days when hospitals overflow and our health-care system is so deeply strained, we want to express our appreciation and support for all of you who care for the health of others than yourselves.

We are moved by your dedication and sacrifice, your willingness to give of yourselves for the sake of others, the love of neighbor that pervades your daily work We are grateful that when you are discouraged by our disregard, you still show up to care for us. We are inspired when we see that your commitment remains even when your zeal is lagging.

We want you to know we pray for you. And we pledge to pray for you weekly in worship and daily in life. You are not forgotten behind closed doors and hospital protocols.

Because we wish to protect you who protect us, we encourage our people to care for each other so you don’t have to. We urge them all to be fully vaccinated as their public responsibility. We ask them to do the things that should be second nature to us by now—wear a mask in public, practice safe distance, wash hands.

For us as Lutherans, health is not an individual possession but a shared endeavor. We teach that “the health of the whole community is connected to each other’s health. My health is related to yours; your health is related to mine. … we cannot be healthy by ourselves.”

And, “it is a moral responsibility, grounded in loving the neighbor, to help each other attain good health through our ways of living together and through supporting those who provide all forms of health care services and healing.” We believe that “governments have an obligation to provide or organize many of these services, but all services depend on active collaboration with the entire community.”

The aforementioned quotes come from Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor (CH:OSE),” a social statement on health, healing, and health care, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and comments from Dr. Roger A. Willer, Director for Theological Ethics, Office of the Presiding Bishop.

We want to do everything we can to contain the spread of this virus and relieve the strain it has put on our hospitals, our health care systems, your offices and clinics, your co-workers and you, so we are happy to follow the guidance and even the mandates that serve us all and ask us to serve each other.

We want to see the day when all people feel safe to patronize restaurants, entertainment venues and public gatherings. We are concerned for our schools, for struggling businesses, for those who are unemployed or underemployed due to this virus. We want to see a flourishing economy and enjoy thriving social and cultural lives again with all our neighbors.

We recognize that protecting ourselves isn’t enough to make this happen; it will happen when we come together to create healthy communities. None of us are safe until all of us are safe.

We do this not from fear, but because our faith compels us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Freed from self-centeredness, we strive to offer ourselves freely in love for others (Galatians 5:13-14).

In these times when caution and distance have so changed our lives, you are among the few who can and must – sometimes there is no other way to heal – touch us. Your hands, however swaddled in PPE, your hands care for us.

May you be safe, may you be well, may you find peace in the strife, may you get some rest.

And may you know that there are others who care about you.

Paul Malek, pastor of the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Ontario, penned this on behalf of the Congregation Council of that church. The opinions and views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of the Argus Observer.

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