Rector's Blog: Building Unity
This blog is also available as a podcast.
Last Sunday I walked down the center aisle of our Church for the first time in a long time. What’s more, I wasn’t alone! A small group of us had gathered together to rehearse the steps of a safe worship service in this time of pandemic. There I was in my mask, Kathy Krug six feet in front of me, Joyce Keeshin six feet behind, marching in distanced single file towards the altar, towards the modified choir loft, the beautiful organ booming, as Thomas Heidenreich sat at the console working his magic. The cross was lit up, the stain glass was glowing. I was overcome.
I have missed this place so much.
Since the initial shutdown in March, we as a worshiping community have worked hard at understanding how we are church even when we are not in our building, how we are united even while physically separated, how we belong to each other, even in isolation. It’s utterly essential to our shared life that we recognize the church is not the building. That being said, my goodness, how important this building is to us. It is the physical space in which we are gathered, it holds us in our laughter and tears, in our frustration and joy, it provides a venue for our relationships of holy connection and communion.
Just think of the people you’ve met in this space, the friendships you’ve built, the songs you’ve sung, the prayers you’ve prayed, how your heart has been opened, your ideas challenged. And each of us has our own memories – of the first time we walked in perhaps, or the time we realized this was our place, these were our people: We know where we like to sit, how we like to stand, when we like to kneel. We all have our unique way of taking communion, how we place our hands, where we look, what we hope. It’s all a part of us, part of our lives, and the walls of our church contain all this and generations more within them.
Of course, the Church is bigger than a building, but it is the building that carries so many of the moments that remind us of the holiness of our lives.
This Sunday there will be worship in the building of the Church of the Redeemer for the first time in 5 months. And chances are you won’t be there. Fewer than 10 people will be participating in person – all of whom will be assisting with the liturgy and helping us all worship. As you likely already know, we are following our Diocesan pandemic guidelines, as well as our own phased parish regathering plan. We are moving from Phase 1a – all services online, recorded from home – to Phase 1b, where worship is streamed live from the sanctuary, and only those assisting in the liturgy can be present. We will all be masked for the entirety of the service, and we will continue to refrain from sharing in the Eucharist.
You will have the opportunity to participate remotely in a worship that incorporates our beloved space. It will be beautiful and difficult. It will be familiar and yet different, comforting and odd all at the same time. My guess is you’ll love it and also be frustrated. That’s how I felt last Sunday during rehearsal. I was overwhelmed with joy and peace to see our sanctuary again, and also frustrated that most of you weren’t there. I was glad to be finding a safe way for us to be together, and quietly annoyed by the way the mask rested upon my face. I was moved by the music, but missing our choir and band.
This will be the way of things for the next little while. I won’t ask you to pretend otherwise. I won’t ask you to act like it’s all normal, or like your feelings aren’t complicated. But here’s what I will ask you: I ask you to hold all of your feelings together, side by side and recognize the holiness in all of it. The way of Love has never been easy, has never been uncomplicated. Throughout our history, joy and sadness have sat side by side in the Christian heart like two faithful people sharing a pew. The God of Love is big enough to hold us in the complexity of our feelings about our current context. After all, as James Baldwin wrote, “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle; love is a war; love is a growing up.” Just as this church built in Love holds us in the complexity of our growing up into Christ, we are meant to hold and behold our own complexity with steadfast tenderness and loving honesty.
The Holy Spirit is at work here as we move one step forward in our regathering. God is inviting us into an old space in a new way. May we have eyes to see the old and new side by side, and to welcome them both into the holiness of our hearts, as we move forward together.
Tags: Rector's Blog