What a difference a couple of weeks can make. At the end of February we were all surprised at the warming weather, daffodils up early. We were eagerly involved in plans: in the church to “create clean hearts” for a Lenten journey, meetings and luncheons to host, a palm-waving Sunday, a glorious, flower filled Easter Sunday and Easter Egg hunts bringing life to our cemetery landscapes. In the community for events to come like concerts, funny plays, Spring meetings of organizations we were a part of, Garden Week, and simple routine things like exercise or yoga classes at the Y. Maybe plans to attend out of town conferences, retreats, a Spring cruise or travel to be with far flung family or friends. Etc., etc., etc. We weren’t aware that what would take over our world, locally and world-wide would totally disrupt most of our plans. Weren’t we basically clueless a couple of weeks ago that among the above etcetera’s would be a tiny microbe that would totally “infect” our rhythm of life? An “etc.” we couldn’t have imagined then would become a monster on the loose, so ruthlessly erasing plans and expectations and, literally, threatening life!
We couldn’t have imagined that our worship service in a coming Sunday would not be in our beautiful church settings with the organ playing and folks slipping into the pews. That what it would turn out to be was some variation of “at home church.” For some of us, maybe watching a YouTube Washington National Cathedral service presented to an empty cathedral nave but thousands via internet. For some maybe pulling out a hardback copy of the Book of Common Prayer (“Now just where did we put it?) or pulling it up on the computer or picking up the current “Forward Day by Day” or some other simple contemplative reading. Or maybe, not even focusing on the fact it was Sunday and we weren’t going to church – something that happens a lot for many folks in their normal routine anyway. For twelve of us our Sunday worship happened on Sunday evening with cell phones to the ear in a hastily arranged tele-conferenced gathering. (Such special thanks to Kim and Bill Calvert for suggesting and arranging this way of doing “at home church.”) Sandy Hagan, one of the worshipers later dubbed it a “Telephone Tree Service.” I love it!
Our church and its facilities are closed. Meetings (ours and those of other “community” groups that use these spaces) are cancelled, rescheduled, postponed indefinitely, offered otherwise in ways promoting “social distancing.” Events throughout our Northern Neck Community are cancelled, schools are closed, sports events suspended (even nationally), churches, the “Y” and so many of the spaces we take for granted as part of our life are not open to us. But church and community are not made up of physical structures; they are made up of people. And the spaces that make a difference are our hearts, minds and spirits. The challenge now in the face of the c-virus pandemic is how we find ways to “connect” after all, how we can “reach out” to one another, how we can “gather” and commune in ways healthy for all of us. It’s about exploring the healthy pathways for community while protecting those pathways from that which wants to travel destructively along them. (Hmm! An idea worth exploring at any time.)
Monday I opened the weekly blog that I have come to treasure: for its simple wisdom, good storytelling, practical “theology” and a combination of suggested poems, prayers, music out of which I usually find a “goodie” for sharing. Terry Hershey in his “Sabbath Moment” this week offered a poem titled “Pandemic” by Lynn Ungar. I believe it simply, wisely and beautifully orients us to the opportunity we can find within the crisis that is affecting/infecting our lives, individually and collectively, locally and world-wide. In the middle of the chaos and disorder of our rhythm of life that a tiny microbe has authored, perhaps there are lessons and new ways to be learned. The way to combat the threat this micro enemy has launched is not to serve as its “host.” Its greatest pathway is us. It counts on its survival and growth, its multiplication happening in the context of what we need the most: connection, intimacy, being with each other, touching, talking, breathing in and out, being in physical proximity to other human beings. How can we meet our human needs in healthy, life (physical/emotional/psychological) preserving ways yet not take part in the proliferation of that which is life threatening and destructive? I don’t like the term “warfare” but I wonder if it isn’t particularly applicable here, as I am re-contemplating the healing stories Jesus tells, not in words, but in his actions of casting out that which was taking over those whom he healed. There was something about his Presence as he reached out with his wisdom, compassion, love and spiritual energy to make this happen. Often without physical touch and even when the person was at a physical distance from him. He recognized and addressed healing, implicitly if not explicitly as “spiritual” – a discernment of spirits that can be harmful and destructive, life-threatening. He engaged in this “spiritual warfare” by, in effect, removing a “demon” (the destructive aspect) from its “host” to make the person “well” again.
I hope you find the poem to follow helpful. I have as I read it and sense its potential as we seek ways of serving as facilitators and mediators of physical health and safety. I also hope that we glean what it has to offer at a deeper and potentially less visible level for ways of serving as facilitators and mediators of spiritual/soulful health and safety. Sometimes its easier to spot the physical “enemies” (visible or invisible), less so the spiritual ones.
Be well, stay safe, nurture compassion, let your heart, mind and soul explore new ways to reach out and touch others, let yourself be “touched” by the energy of love (received and given). Do not let yourself be overcome by fear, anxiety or a host of negative thoughts thoughts. Isolate yourself from that which is destructive and flow with what is healing and restorative and life-giving. Remember the words of the Divine: “Fear, not!” and “I am with you always.”