I imagine that most of you over the years have seen images of the wildfires out West. The fire sweeps across dry landscapes and the wind pushes it in directions that are hard to predict. One practice to slow the fires and sometimes stop them is to create what is called a “fire break.” This involves clearing vegetation and trees in the path of the fire so that it breaks the movement of the flames and allows the blaze to be extinguished.
That is a metaphor, I think, for what we are doing now concerning the coronavirus pandemic. We are creating, by social distancing and by limiting our gathering in groups, a “virus break” in order to stop the movement and advancement of the illness.
It is a very difficult thing for a Christian community to stop physically gathering together. Our faith is grounded in our conviction that God took human form — flesh and bone and water and blood — in the person of Jesus who dwelt among us full of grace and truth. God mediated God’s love for us by becoming one of us, and Jesus lived his human life reaching out with his healing touch to his neighbors.
It is our practice as followers of Jesus, God’s embodied love, to do all that we can do to share in his ministry of tenderness. This call of our faith and our basic human needs for touch and human interaction make “social distancing” and the “suspension of public worship” sacrifices that are emotionally and spiritually painful. There is no getting around the truth that these are hard times.
We are, however, in this instance, practicing a form of healing and ministry — by staying apart. We need as a community, as a country, and as a world to stop the wildfire that is the coronavirus, and the adjustments we are making by staying apart physically from one another is what we are called to do in this time. We are called to create a type of fire break — a virus break — and that is what we are doing.
We can still use our minds, hearts, gifts, and imagination to continue the good work of this congregation. We — Barbara Luhn, Becky Portwood, Linda Harding, individual members of our choir, and I — are working week by week to present for our communion an online worship experience. We will attempt to bring, as best we can, an order of worship that feels close to what we practice week after week at Nacoochee Presbyterian Church. We will record this service in the sanctuary of our church to keep us all in touch with the space that is sacred for so many.
Members of the Session and the deacons are also working to think through and work toward finding new ways to keep in contact with each other. I am very grateful and so very impressed with the indomitable spirit of this congregation and the many ways your leadership and all of us are reaching out to one another with the tender care so perfectly embodied in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.