It seems fitting that a lot of our lectionary readings in church in recent weeks have had to do with the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness over an extended period of time. Like them, we too find ourselves as a pilgrim people wandering through our own “wilderness experience” of the coronavirus pandemic, an uncertain economic outlook, the necessity of a certain amount of isolation through social distancing, and learning or re-learning hygienic habits. Even when we as a people have gone through trying times in the past: war, economic uncertainty, and social upheaval at least we could gather together and support each other socially and spiritually. This time, though, even that aspect is hampered, which makes this wilderness experience a very unique and unusual one that we are having to learn to handle.
All of this makes for a very bewildering “wilderness” experience. While the Bishop’s cancellation of in-person indoor church gatherings – at first until 31 March and now as of today until 30 April – is done understandably out of an abundance of caution and to limit the spread of the coronavirus especially to our kupuna, nevertheless I admit that this past week I have felt a profound sense of loss and grief. This stems from the fact that for the time being we can no longer count on readily seeing each other each Sunday and at other times, gathering together regularly, experiencing fellowship as an `Ohana in person, and realizing God’s presence in one place at one time. This spiritual and social dimension of loss is on top of dealing with the uncertainties of the pandemic and the economy.
The good news, though, is that even though the indoor physical gathering for church is set on pause, All Saints’ Church is not “closed.” The Bible asserts that the church never refers to a building, but rather to God’s people – the Greek word in the New Testament is ekklesia, from which we get words like “ecclesiastical,” meaning to do with church. Literally, “ekklesia” means “the gathered ones,” both in a literal physical gathering as well as a group of people gathering together as one in mind, purpose, and spirit. So even though our church building may be “closed” temporarily, we as God’s ‘Ohana are never out of business. In terms of worship together, we are working with St. Michael’s and All Angels in Lihue and soon also with Christ Memorial in Kilauea to record morning worship together, and in addition as Easter approaches we at All Saints’ are thinking of ways to gather outside of the sanctuary building for worship as well.
Indeed, this is the very time that we are to step up in creative and self-giving ways to “be church” to one another and to our wider community. Thankfully, we do have modern technology that helps us to keep in touch with each other, as limited as it is – telephone, emails like this one, websites, the
and other forms of mass communications. We can also check in on one another personally, of course following the necessary precautions of cleanliness and hygiene. In addition, the pastoral team and I are on hand to make home visits as well – just let us know. I also ask all of us to keep up with supporting each other through our regular pledge and offering giving as much as we can in light of our own personal and family financial situations, by clicking the “Donate” button on the All Saints’ website or by sending in your pledge envelope via mail or in person – I’m also happy to come by and collect it from you.
This is THE time for us to pull together and to lift each other up. In the words of the Apostle Peter, “You, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 2:5) and in the words of the writer to the Hebrews, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together (for us, in the broadest sense of the word) as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) In the short term we may have to be creative in how we “meet together,” but certainly let’s hold each other up in prayer and touch base with each other on a frequent basis.
Above all, mahalo nui loa for your aloha and friendship to Muriel and me as “newbies” to the All Saints’ `Ohana. As trying as these times are, we could not think of a better place and a better people with whom to share them than with you.
Me ke Aloha o Kristo,