Rector's Blog: One Year
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This week marks the one-year anniversary of the day the Church of the Redeemer decided to cease in-person worship and indoor gathering. Friday, March 13th, 2020. The clergy, staff, and wardens gathered in the Parlor and agreed on a shutdown of the building that we said would be for “at least three weeks”. Some of us talked hopefully about being back in time for Holy Week, others said June was more realistic. A few prophets among us warned this was going to be much longer than any of us were ready to grasp. We looked at each other nervously that day. How close should we even be sitting to each other during this conversation? I guess we don’t hug before saying goodbye. The gravity and uncertainty that would become hallmarks of this past year hung heavy in the air.
When I sat down to write to you this week, I was considering talking about March 8th as the last time we were all together on a Sunday in the sanctuary. But I realized that was not true: By that point, many of our parishioners living in retirement communities had already gone on indefinite lockdown. We were not “all together” without them. I remember the week before that even, as people were leaving from worship and one faithful friend said to me, “You won’t be seeing us for a while,” and I just was not ready to hear that or understand it. He saw what I did not.
And as we shut the doors, I remember thinking forward to the exciting Sunday when “we’d all be back together,” a few short weeks or months from that Friday in March, I pictured a raucous Sunday with packed pews, powerful singing, and long hugs. Would it be on Easter? How beautiful would that be? And of course, that won’t be the case. First, and most importantly: we won’t “all” be back together. We’ve lost people during the last year, and while these saints of God will join us in the Eucharistic feast every time we approach the altar, their familiar bodies will not occupy the pews the way they did the last time we saw them.
We have been able to regather outdoors for worship several times, and for those able to attend, it has been truly nourishing. We have been able to see the inside of the sanctuary via livestream, and those who have watched have been so grateful to see the space we love so much – that space that holds so much blessing for our community. Soon and very soon we will begin to hold in-person worship in the building that holds space for us. We will not be packed in, singing, or hugging. It will be something other than what we first thought. It will look and feel different. And it will be beautiful. God will be glorified.
In the days to come, I ask that you reflect with love upon all that this last year has been for you. I’m not asking you to pretend you have liked or enjoyed this time. But you have known love and been love for others during this time, and you have experienced being church in a completely different way and there is room for you to see this with love.
Hold space for this past year.
One year of being alone together.
One year of being connected in our isolation.
One year of yearning and belonging.
One year of worry and wonder.
One year of limitation and creativity.
One year of immense grief and possibility.
And we know we have more to go. There was no clear start date to when this pandemic began to change the life of this community, and there will be no perfect obvious end date: Instead, we will take each day as it comes, loosening up a bit some days, pulling back on other days, being in turns excited and overwhelmed, reclaiming old habits and establishing new ones. We will not emerge from this pandemic like a phoenix rising from the ashes, swift and glorious. Let’s be realistic: We will be more like the patient emerging from a rehab center, with so much courage and strength already exerted, with a new appreciation of the simple things, and with need to rebuild muscles and regain our stamina.
We have no interest in pretending we’re the same people we were. We have no interest in business as usual. We are devoted to partnering with the Holy Spirit in the work God has us to do here and now - with the world as it really is. Our strength is found in the faith God has in us. We are inspired by our understanding of that faith and nurtured by the relationships we are building as Church of the Redeemer. We are a worshiping community devoted to knowing Jesus and growing in love. Everything we do is rooted and grounded in that truth. We are in this together. We will crawl and limp and walk and run and rest together. We will make space for each other’s grief and hope together. We will allow one another to recover from this trauma at whatever pace necessary because that’s what real togetherness means. We are the Body of Christ.
Wow, I love this church so much. I’m so grateful for all that you are for each other, for your neighbors, for my family, for me. God is present and working in our lives, and you help me and so many others see that every day. In this somber week of remembrance, my heart is buoyed by the hope of Christ that is powerfully alive in our shared life. May we move through the end of this pandemic much like we did the beginning – with intention, mutual care, and an abiding sense of love undergirding our every word and deed. God bless you.
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