As your State Representative, I usually use this column to share news and updates about what the legislature is doing. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to share. With the coronavirus and COVID-19 changing so much about our daily lives, this week, I would like to share some thoughts I hope will provide not only perspective but comfort as we celebrate Easter during this pandemic. For many, this column will not run until after Easter Sunday, but the message certainly holds up.
As a Christian, I want to begin by saying that my thoughts are based on my own experiences, but I know it is significantly like other faiths. For example, with Passover, our Hebrew neighbors observe the journey from slavery to freedom that took place over three thousand years ago.
I think it is particularly meaningful that Easter is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. After all, Easter is an opportunity to reflect on His sacrifice for us, and to rejoice in knowing that He is risen.
Over the past few weeks, I have heard folks say that COVID will prevent us from having Easter. That is just not possible. Easter will be different this year, and we can list how it will not be the same. Instead, let’s focus on what we can do to celebrate it. We won’t gather in church, but we can worship online or in our homes with family. We can’t join family and friends to hunt eggs, but we can hide and hunt eggs at home for our children. We won’t share a meal with our extended family, but we will have food and an opportunity to use technology to share the day with our loved ones. We still practice fellowship because we know that in each other, our faith grows stronger. We still share the joy of Mary Magdalene and Mary when the stone was moved to reveal an empty tomb.
While so much of how we are responding to COVID-19 is new to all of us, we can find comfort in that empty tomb. In the gift of life that is everlasting.
I wonder if we can also find comfort in knowing that the faith we depend on today has survived through centuries of challenges. In early Rome, Christians gathered in secret to worship. As the first pilgrims arrived on these shores, many sought a new home and the freedom to worship as they chose.
On the American frontier, pioneers worshipped in homes, barns, and even taverns until something more permanent could be fashioned. I remember hearing a report written by a minister visiting our state capital for the first time in the early 1800s. In his journal, Bishop Francis Asbury wrote, “Came to lowly-seated Frankfort. Here are elegant accommodations provided for those who make the laws and those who break them, but there is no house of God.” Just a couple of years after Asbury wrote those lines in his journal, the Kentucky General Assembly authorized a lottery to build Frankfort’s first place of public worship, a simply constructed building that several denominations shared.
This is not unique to Frankfort, but rather very similar to how churches developed in new communities. Even having a church building did not guarantee a pastor. Until as late as the Civil War, many Kentuckians who lived in rural, hard to reach areas were served only by ministers who traveled by horseback. Those ministers were often the only “organized” religious experience that people in those areas had, and those circuit riders sometimes only reached the same areas a few times a year.
I share this because I think we can all find comfort in knowing that while this pandemic is unprecedented, we are not the first to find a way through challenging times. History provides perspective, and I know I can use perspective as I deal with how COVID has changed my life.
In the weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we have made many changes to how we live our daily lives and do business. The state legislature is no different. Early in our response, we strictly limited who could be on the House Floor to only legislators and a small number of essential staff from the House Clerk’s Office. That meant a temporary suspension of our legislative page program, visitors, and the pastors who traditionally open each session of the House with prayer. These prayers are a longstanding tradition, dating back to our state’s time as the frontier.
That doesn’t mean that prayer has stopped. Instead of guest pastors, we have turned to our fellow members – some of whom are pastors by profession and others who, like many of us, try every day to be the best we can in our faith walk. Hearing their voices raised in prayer is encouraging; it provides a sense of fellowship that I know we all need.
Even through all these changes, the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9 ring clear when our Father says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
As your State Representative, I will continue working to help move Kentucky forward through this crisis. I can be reached through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181 if you have any comments or questions. You can also contact me via e-mail at Chris.Freeland@LRC.KY.GOV.. You can also keep track of the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at legislature.ky.gov.