This is a time when, as many have said, we “stay together by staying apart.” I get it, and I’m doing my best to practice it, but I don’t like it. For those of you familiar with the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, my score indicates that I am an INFP. The I in that series of letters stands for Introverted. I score as an introvert as opposed to an extrovert; in other words, I get my strength from time alone. and groups are usually energy draining for me (even though I enjoy being in the groups). Yet, even as an introvert, I do not like this “staying apart” time in our common life. I can only begin to imagine how hard this time is for the extroverts among us!
But here’s the thing — we have to make wise decisions about our coming back together based on the facts of the spread of coronavirus. There are still lots of indicators that this disease —which in just a couple of months has already claimed more lives than were lost in our 20 years of conflict in Vietnam — is still very potent and active. We have to get better as a nation and as states at testing and tracking this disease. Until there is some real and well-considered (not magical or politically motivated) alternative to “stay together by staying apart,” that will continue to be the best practice.
As you will read in the summary of our several Session meetings since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the elders of our church have struggled with and worked hard to find ways of keeping our communion connected while at the same time keeping our congregation safe and financially vital. For example:
- The Session and the Worship Committee have made decisions about emphasizing online worship. To that end, I, along with Barbara Luhn and individual members of the choir, have met weekly to record a service to be sent along to the membership and beyond. Linda Harding has been doing a great job of editing these recordings into what we hope is a warm and familiar worship experience. Thanks to Becky Portwood, we are able to import into our services videos of previously recorded music by the choir, the bell choir, and others. Seeing those videos reminds us of the talent in our congregation but also what the space looks like with people in it!
- The Communications Committee has been diligent at getting the recordings out by way of emails and in sending out other communications to the membership.
- The Deacons have stepped up their outreach of checking in with families by way of emails, phone calls, and notes. Other members of the Session have also taken time to reach out to the membership.
- The Finance Committee, Treasurer, and Personnel Committee have worked to secure grants and to manage the budget of our church such that we can move forward, recognizing that the next several months and beyond may present financial hardships. Denise Bobo has come into the church office once a week to make deposits, pay bills, and put together the weekly financial report.
- The Outreach Committee continues to work by distributing food and keeping the food pantry stocked; the committee has also offered financial support to local families and to agencies working to help “the least of these.”
- The Property Committee is continuing the work to install solar panels for our church (thanks to a generous gift by Joan King, blessed be her memory).
- The Christian Education Committee is working to find ways to involve our youth in worship and in other activities.
- The Session along with Darcy Nix, who is chairing the Homecoming Task Force, have decided that the celebration of our 150th anniversary, which was scheduled for August 8–9, 2020, will be postponed to August 2021. We want this to be a grand celebration but only when it can happen without anxiety about travel and public gatherings.
The point to all of this is that the leadership of our community of faith is seeking to be faithful to God by loving neighbor even when that love is expressed by staying apart.
So I say, during this time of “staying together by staying apart”:
Keep the faith.
Be safe and sound.
Find grace and beauty in small things.
Hope for a new day.
Pray for peace.
Pray for one another.
With love and longing,
P.S. A poem by Wendell Berry –
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.