5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ro 5:1–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Two weeks ago I was doing a bit of doomscrolling through Facebook and saw my posts from immediately following the Bishop’s call for the suspension of in person activities across the Diocese. In one of the first posts counselling patience as we awaited information about how long we might have to do this, I suggested (based on available information) that in perhaps two weeks the curve might flatten in a way to allow us to resume in person activities, if only on a limited basis.
We have had a couple of false starts, but with vaccines available and more folks in the congregation and community getting them, we see cause for real hope in being able to regather on a limited basis sometime during the Easter Season (April 4-May 22). In order for that to happen we will need to see positivity rates in testing fall below the 8% level and remain there for 14 days. As of this morning, (March 23) we were still logging 10% positivity rates.
It just goes to show how little we knew then, and how we have been given abundant opportunities to practice the Christian virtues of patience and self control.
Now a second Holy Week in the time of COVID-19 is upon us and we will not be back to normal for Easter. In fact, normal is an idea we might do well to shelve for a bit. As Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem and the Cross we are setting our faces toward what a new ‘normal’ might be. As part of our preparation for doing this work we are examining systems and facilities that have been unused for months. I submit that the same sort of examination is in line as we look at the less visible parts of our experience over the course of the past 54 weeks.In many ways we are setting our faces toward an unknown future in a similar way that Jesus did.
As a part of that work, I have asked the vestry to read this blog post from Karl Vaters, “Will the Congregation Come Back?” Should Not Be Our Concern, 6 Better Questions. I invite you to take a look at it as well so that you might understand how your leaders are approaching this work and that we are approaching this with a both/and outlook regarding how we welcome old friends back and greet folks who may have joined us on whatever level during the pandemic.
We are understandably excited for the chance to return to more familiary surroundings and rhythms of worship. Celebration is an appropriate response to that excitement, and celebrate we will. It is also important for us to recognize the ways, large and small, that we have experienced loss during the past year and be intentnional about naming those and lamenting their loss. Sadness is natural and a part of the process of endurance.
With that in mind, we will be putting together a series of services to intentionally celebrate our endurance including a Baptism tentatively scheduled for May 9th, a service of Lament and Loss on May 16th and Bishop Haynes visitation on May 23rd.
As we continue to move forward seeking to do the next right thing for our congregation and those whom we are called to seek and serve, I trust that we will be gentle with one another. None of us really knows what we are doing, but we do know that God continues to be God and that we never will be.