In the Midst of a Storm

March 13, 2020

Dear Peachtree Road Family,

I hope this note finds you well. With the current news dominated by reports of the spread of the Coronavirus, I want to remind you of a story found in the 8th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke: “One day, Jesus and his disciples boarded a boat. He said, ‘Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.’ So they set sail.” Of course, you remember what happened next: Jesus fell asleep; gale-force winds swept down upon the lake; the boat filled with water; and the disciples cried out in fear. Then, the Lord woke up, spoke a word of peace, and calmed the wind and the waves. It’s one of my favorite stories.

Usually I put myself in the place of the disciples when I read that story – panic-stricken in the midst of a storm and crying out for Jesus to do something. However, today, it might be helpful for us to see ourselves in the place of Jesus in the story. It feels like the Coronavirus pandemic has swept into our lives like a great storm, and we hear the voices of those crying out in fear and anxiety. Might this be a time for the Church to be fully awake and offer a word of peace?

Last month, 34 of us from Peachtree Road and another group of United Methodists from Rome, Georgia took an early morning boat trip on the Sea of Galilee. Once we were a good distance from shore, the engines were turned off. As the boat drifted, we reflected upon how Jesus calms us in the midst of life’s storms. Afterward, two women from our group, Lena Jenkins and Robin O’Shields, began to sing and dance as the sound of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir singing “O Happy Day” rang out over the loudspeaker. Everyone on board joined in a joyous time of singing and dancing. Isn’t that how you’ve experienced the faith journey? Jesus calms our fears and then brings us to a place of joy. In these days, I believe that is the mission of the church, and I hope we can live into it.

Let me offer some suggestions that can help us bring peace in the midst of the storm.

First, here is what you can do as an individual to combat the spread of the Coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • If you experience coughing, sneezing, or a fever, seek medical attention.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Second, I find University of California psychologist Elissa Epel’s observations helpful as we seek to navigate the stress and anxiety many are experiencing:
“When threats are uncertain, such as the current Coronavirus situation, our anxious minds can easily overestimate the actual threat and underestimate our ability to cope with it…When we are in a panic state, we suffer, we stress out our children, and we are more likely to make mistakes and engage in irrational decisions and behavior.” Therefore, let us pay attention to the following:

  • Stay informed, but avoid over-saturating yourself with media reports of the virus
  • Take deep breaths and pray – for all health care providers, those who are sick, and their anxious family members
  • Exercise regularly and eat healthy foods
  • Read and study the scriptures daily
  • Worship with others each week (even if it is online through the livestream)
  • Remind yourself that God is with us and at work in our world
  • Connect with others – by phone, by text, and by email
  • Maintain healthy relationships with friends and family members
  • Be grateful – gratitude is the seed you plant to discover joy

I hope you find that information helpful in these days of uncertainty.

Concerning upcoming events here at Peachtree Road, let me share the following information:

Worship this Sunday – at this point we are planning to worship at both 8:45 am and 11:15 am in the sanctuary. We do understand that our elderly members may be the most at-risk from a health standpoint to the Coronavirus and encourage them to worship with us this Sunday online. The offering plates will be stationary, and we will practice “social distancing” to protect one another’s health. Please know that all are encouraged to worship through the livestream at 11:15 am here.

Hospitality the Disney Way – we are postponing the forum on hospitality that was scheduled for this Sunday at 10:00 am. Alice Williams, a 25 year veteran of the Disney organization, will be with us at a future time to lead the session. We will let you know once that forum has been rescheduled.

Mission trip to Kenya – the trip has been postponed. Most of our team had not left before the President’s speech Wednesday night, and those that had left now are on their way back home. Though our folks will not be there, the Start with One Kenya team will begin delivering the water filters to folks in the Njoro region next week on our behalf. Please keep that life-giving mission in your prayers.

Great Day of Service – the day of service planned for Saturday, March 21 is being postponed. Many of the projects will be rescheduled and go forward at a later date. Thank you to all who have signed up to serve and please look for an email from Beth Spencer and her team concerning your project.

Lenten Offering – we will continue to receive gifts to the Lenten Offering to be used to support the agencies and ministries in the Greater Atlanta area with whom we partner. You may learn more and give now here.

Finally, let me thank you for your support of the ministry of Peachtree Road UMC. Your prayers on her behalf, your presence in worship, your generous gifts, and your compassionate service to others are inspirational.

I recall that John Wesley went through a major storm (actually, it was a hurricane) on his voyage to Georgia in January of 1736. The faith he gained by going through that storm shaped him and the Methodist movement he founded. It is a part of our DNA!

In the coming days, let us find ways to promote not just the physical health of others but also their spiritual health through online prayer groups and studies. Let us discover new ways to promote the well-being of families and especially children in the midst of this storm. Let us truly be a source of hope and light in these uncertain days. Dear Lord, let it be!



  1. Bill, thanks for posting this inspirational and thoughtful message. We will get through this!! We look forward to returning to Sunday school and services at PRUMC. Best wishes to you and your family., Allen and Sandy Tothill.

  2. We as Christians are encouraged to praise the Lord daily even in times of uncertainty in the midst of any of life’s storms
    that we all experience in our lifetime walk. I am always reminded of the bible quote ” I am with you always”.

  3. I am a Catholic and you express so well Bill, how I feel about Our Lord. Thank you.

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