One of the challenges of ministry this year is figuring out when and if to restart something we have done in the past. Walking Together is now open a couple of days a week, and we are talking about opening three days a week starting next month. The parish where I worship most Sundays is beginning the transition from Morning Prayer on Zoom to in-person Eucharist. Committees and commissions of the diocese are beginning to think about in person meetings. My AA home group is still on Zoom, but others are now meeting in person, either outdoors or in various meeting spaces.
But we are challenged to do more than simply restart as if the past 15 months have been a just a blip on the screen (literally, for some of us!). As my friend Naomi said a few days ago “We keep fixing things that maybe need to fall apart.” Some of the things we have done in the past will serve us well in the future, but others not so much. Some of the things we have done during COVID may be worth continuing. Perhaps we are called to move into something entirely new, or we are meant to figure out new ways of meeting needs that have always been present.
For many people, the past 15 months have brought to light some of the systemic inequities which have been around for a long time. Unequal access to healthcare, food insecurity, the vulnerability of many of our essential workers—these were problems long before the virus struck. The issues surrounding which neighborhoods or towns have easy access to banking, what zip codes have high speed internet, and how easy it is to find a place to sit down or get a drink of water have come into the forefront in ways that have surprised us. Questions of income inequality and racial justice have come alive.
Those of us who have renewed our baptismal promises during Eastertide have been reminded of our promises to respect the dignity of every person, and serve others as we would serve Christ. These promises can be guidelines as we decide what to restart and what to let go. Of the things we have done in the past, are they activities which help us affirm our baptismal promises? Do they distract us from our baptismal promises?
One of the things which we at Walking Together focused on during COVID times is food insecurity. We were very aware that many of the places which offered free meals either closed down, or were offering only grab and go options. For those with little or no access to kitchens, This was hard, to say the least.
We also worked to get people access to water. As public buildings like libraries closed down, so did their sinks and toilets. Many restaurants were take out or delivery only. Drinking fountains have been turned off and even removed. Stores now sell bottles of water rather than offering a fountain or tap where people can get a drink. When the only way you have access to water is buying it at a convenience store, thirst and hand washing become huge problems.
Last spring we began handing out food parcels and water bottles to our folks. Many of them had been dispersed around the city, so we were on the move, driving around to find them. In the process we met many others who welcomed our offerings, not just the folks in Main South. Our ministry began to expand in new ways.