From The Vicar: The Space Between Us

Published on Thu, 19 Mar 2020 21:02
From The... - Letters to the Congregation

Dear Ones of St. Columba's,

 Today Bishop Greg informed clergy of the diocese that we should expect to be closed for public worship and dependent on livestream and virtual ways of connection and worship at minimum through Holy Week. He, in consultation with public health authorities and his executive staff (which includes me), will consider extending this as we get closer to Easter and see how the outbreak is progressing. 

This was not a surprise, although hearing the word officially is a deep disappointment. It would have been so neatly wrapped up, if we could have concluded our time apart at the conclusion of Lent. This is a reminder that pandemics, like other parts of human life, are rarely neat or easily controlled. 

I have been feeling, deeply, this physical separation from you. I don't like it. I miss you. I miss our quiet 8am service with its familiar faces and sweet routines. I miss our rowdy 10am with the kids tumbling on the carpet and the surprising moments of grace and joy I experience watching the adults enjoy them and worship around and through the sounds they make. I miss the sound of your voices all around me as you pray with the presider at our table and I miss the sugar rush of coffee hour with its laughter and noise.  I miss the holy moments of vulnerability and prayer on Wednesday nights as we lay on hands and anoint with oil for healing. I miss you, and it is deeply painful that we cannot be together in person. Even more painful is the reality that it would be dangerous to our more vulnerable members if we were. 

This pain, dear ones, is evidence of the communion we share. 

I find myself remembering words that I have said to people who are recently bereaved. Your sadness is evidence of your love. This is hard. It is hard because we cannot be together but it is also difficult because we are together. All the things I miss are held in a suspended communion now - one we remember fiercely and hold tight to because we will be together again. 

In the meantime, I am so encouraged to see you staying connected. Emails, phone calls, zoom tutorials, and facebook experimentations. I see buddy groups employing all of these to stay connected with each other and continue to deepen the bonds of friendship and care that began for many in the peaceful abbey-like sanctuary of our church. James Wyatt's morning prayer has become a staple for many of us - and several of you figured out zoom for Wednesday night prayers and hangout times. I hope more will try it this week. We still worship, and so we stay church. 

We are working to enable every older volunteer to stay home, which means younger members are stepping up to take care of our vulnerable neighbors in our caring ministries. I have been moved to tears to see us take care of each other, and of those who are facing all the same isolation and fears but without enough food, or reliable shelter. And I want to be clear - it takes equal courage to stay home, especially for those who are high risk for COVID or who live with high risk folks. We stay church by trusting that God will help us do what we are called to do, even when some of us are called to stay home and contribute through prayer, calls, and posts instead of in person helping. 

Sweet church, we are doing this. We are staying connected, staying church, and taking care of each other. We can keep doing it, even if our fast lasts past Easter Sunday and into the season of resurrection. We are bound together in a communion that is bigger than one virus, bigger than one season, bigger than the sacred space we now hold between us. 

with faith, hope, and love,

Alissa

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