I am posting excerpts from pastoral letters written for the congregation of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oviedo, Florida. These are offered with the prayerful hope that others might find perspective or encouragement in them.

As things begin to loosen up here in Florida, I’ve begun to hear a certain word used in a less common context. We mostly use the word “charity” to speak of economic resources given to those in need. But the word has an older, less economic use. Charity was in the King James Bible one of the cardinal virtues, and, in fact, in 1 Corinthians 13 considered the greatest of them. Charity is listed first as one of the fruit of the spirit. Where our translations read “love” this virtue was known as “charity.” I wonder if it is possible that in shifting the language we have lost from the idea the aspect of giving that is a necessary part of this virtue. Charity is love given, and in the days ahead, it is a gift we will need to give each other. Particularly we will need to give space for those around us to think differently.

I could write at length about decisions as simple as whether one wears a mask to the grocery or not. The weighing of individual choice against the common good, balancing necessary and unnecessary risk, being comfortable and being wise, are all factors entering into such a decision. And whatever the issue, if we agree, all is good. If we do not agree, however, we need to be willing to give each other the space, the grace, the understanding, to hold those different views without judgment or condemnation. This is to show one another charity. And these days are requiring charity.

The elders of our church have not yet made a decision as to when to renew public services (though the conversation is happening and discussions of what that will look like are well along). Other churches have already begun to meet. Some of you no doubt wonder what is fueling our hesitancy. Others may be fearful that we might move too quickly. We as leaders need your charity as we make some unprecedented decisions.

And once we have begun services, there will be again a great need for charity. Some will feel comfortable with coming, and others will not. Some will want to be more physical than others. Some will wear masks, and others won’t.

Perhaps now is the time to remember that 1 Corinthians 13 and its reminder that charity “. . . does not insist on its own way. . .” and “. . . is not irritable or resentful . . .” was not written for a marriage ceremony but for a church whose practice of charity was lacking. Charity is in my experience one of your stellar virtues. But I think we all need a reminder to tend even to our strengths in these times.