On a recent podcast, I heard one of the speakers mention that we are living in “apocalyptic” times and they went on to tease out what they meant using that term. Because the word “apocalypse,” has a religious basis having been lifted from the Bible, it is commonly misused and misinterpreted by most.

Admit it. What do you think when you hear the word, apocalypse? I’ll bet your mind’s eye moved to hellfire, death, and damnation; destruction of every sort including a picture of flesh-eating zombies or scenes from the movie, The Purge.  But to tell the truth what we culturally believe apocalypse means and its usage in the Scripture and its original meaning are as different as night and day.

From the Greek, apokaluptein, which means to reveal or uncover, comes the word, apocalypse. We commonly use the word, revelation in contemporary English today. In fact, in Greek the last book of the Bible is called, “The Apocalypse (of Jesus the Messiah to John).”   Revelation—Apocalypse—Hmmmm. I suspect that we readers of Scripture got so caught up in the imagery and symbolism  that we focused on what was NOT instead of what WAS being revealed about the nature of all creation; that its beginning and ending is in the Christ (consciousness).

So back to the podcast. The speaker was noting how this COVID-19 event was quite apocalyptic in the purest sense of the word. It is revealing much about ourselves as a people—what is essential and non-essential, the disparities of life in the United States of America, and other unsightly things we’d rather not see and try hard not to see when we can.  Alas, the conversation has turned to all of the blind spots and holes that are a part of our common life revealed by the advent of this new microbe and how unjust and oppressive  the holes and blinds spots are for many of our nation’s peoples.

In fact, so much has been revealed that we can hardly afford to return to “business as usual” when COVID-19 becomes a memory. So, what do you do with revelations like these? I ask questions, of course.

I wonder, am I prepared to make uncomfortable or inconvenient personal changes to accommodate a truly “new normal.”  We know that our material/physical normal has and will be changed, but what about our non-material, spiritual one?  Can I, shall I, will I choose to change to the degree that our society is actually transformed from the inside out?  What will be required of me?  Can I do it?  Will I choose to do it?   Can we, as Church, actually live out in our lives what we profess by our faith? Am I prepared to accommodate new wine in new wine skins? Just wondering. Are you?

With Much Love and Many Prayers,

Freda Marie+

Dear Folks,

Several years ago I got a phone call from a fellow who identified himself as my former neighbor.  He said we knew one another by sight—“I’m very tall, in my twenties, and we lived on the same block for two years in New York City,” he told me. I realized we had registered each other’s presence the way people do, when they live in a crowded urban area, and walk the same streets every day to get from place to place. City neighborhoods weave surprising intimacies. He figured out who I was through his parents, who were members of the church where I was serving in New Jersey, right out of seminary. He said, “I moved back home this weekend, because my mom is dying of brain cancer. Can you come over to see her?”  Mike and I learned each other’s names sitting vigil on either side of his mother, Beverly, each of us holding one of her hands.

About a week before she died, Mike called and asked me to anoint his mother’s body, an ancient custom of the church offered to people who are near death. The whole family gathered around her bed, which had been set up in the living room six weeks earlier so that she could literally be in the middle of things—to hear the laughter in the kitchen, smell what’s cooking, and have a little more space and light. Together we carefully washed her papery skin with warm, soapy water, rubbed in her favorite lotion, and finally made the sign of the cross on each hand and foot, using oil that the bishop had blessed. Bev was awake but silent, as we accomplished the ablutions for her, no longer able to speak. Mike’s sister remarked that their mom was like a baby now, and that they were tending to her the way that she had once washed and cared for them.

Mike said he knew his mom’s hands and feet so well. She had been a dancer as a young woman, and as a boy he loved to put his little feet on hers as they whirled around the yard, and later her hands had cut yarn and construction paper for 25 years as a 2nd grade teacher.  “It’s funny to see her fingers not covered with glitter and glue,” he said.

Jesus hands figure importantly in this Sunday’s gospel. On the first day of the week, the day of the resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples. “Peace be with you,” he says to them, and then he shows them his pierced side and his injured hands. He continues, “I am still with you! Death is no match for God and his love. These are the hands that touched you and healed you and cajoled you into living fully—hands that hold and hands that forgive and hands that work for justice.”

Look at your hands. What do you see? A parent’s hand…a lover’s hand…a child’s hand…a friend’s hand? A teacher’s hand…a builder’s hand…a nurse’s hand…a doctor’s hand…a banker’s hand…an artist’s hand? If you are like me, whatever you are looking at is pretty chapped right now, as we follow the CDC’s instructions to keep washing, keep washing. Can you see in your mind’s eye the hands that Michelangelo painted, of God reaching out to humanity, or the father’s hands embracing the crumpled shoulder of Rembrandt’s Prodigal, or the graceful hands of choreographer Judith Jamison? I wonder if a hand was ever raised against you in a harmful way? Think of the hands that intervene to make you safe now and lead you from darkness to light. Consider the hands raised in praise or protest, hands that say “This is God’s world, where every worker deserves a living wage, every child a good education, every senior access to comprehensive healthcare.”

I had met Bev in the autumn before she died, before she even knew she was sick.  She came unexpectedly, without calling ahead. I was in my office, talking with someone else on the phone, when outside my window a tall woman in a small Volkswagen roared into the parking lot and into my life. Quickly I learned that Bev had just retired from teaching, that she felt both excited and unsettled by the changes in her life, that she and her husband were planning a long-awaited trip to Italy, and that she planned to join my Bible study when she returned.  No more mixing wheat paste or gathering magazine pictures for her. “I’ve finally graduated from the 2nd grade, and I want to learn with adults!” she said. Vibrant, funny, and serious at once, I could imagine generations of elementary students falling in love with her.

And then Bev got very sick, and the advent of her illness was like her coming into my office that day in the Fall: unexpected and without calling ahead. Bev’s cancer raced through her beautiful, lithe body, from diagnosis to death in a matter of weeks.

Maybe because it all happened so quickly, Bev was not scared of suffering, but she did fear the moment of her death. “Who will be there with me,” she worried. So we told her that we would stand by, and because she asked for it, we gave Bev an image of the other side of the threshold between life and death: God’s strong hands would deliver her through the narrow passage of her dying. “From our hands to God’s hands, you will never be alone,” we told her.

I’ve been thinking about Bev these days, and what we said to her as she was passing. Like the ones that Jesus shows to his disciples, our hands were made for touching and healing and holding, and that gift seems especially hard to hang onto in this pandemic—when we are cautioned not to touch each other, when loved ones are communicating through iPads, and when even nurses are performing their ablutions through gloves and layers of plastic. Our hearts were made for giving encouragement, for offering forgiveness and sharing affection, especially at times of loss, so I imagine yours may be broken right now.

Jesus was broken, too, and out of that darkness shines a healing, life-giving light that never dims: Nothing can separate us from the love of God… not height nor depth, not sickness nor social distancing, not even death. I am lifting you up, hands raised in faith, and I can’t wait to hug you again. Will you reach out to everyone you can now, through whatever means you have available? Tell someone unlikely today that you are with them, and that they are not alone.

Love,
David

How did you spend your day yesterday?

Perhaps you spent some of it on the phone or FaceTiming, checking in with friends and loved ones. Or working on that puzzle you’ve been working on, or knitting or sewing or needlepointing. Perhaps you went for a walk or did some gardening; had a Zoom meeting or cleaned your house (or thought about cleaning, again!). Maybe you were trying to keep the kids busy or “on task” with schoolwork; or in a hospital or clinic caring for patients; or supporting someone who is grieving, struggling. And finding yourself grieving and struggling, as well …

My family and I live in a townhouse community on a cul-de-sac in Mt. Washington. Over the past few days and weeks, I have walked more laps around our cul-de-sac than I can count. I’ve come to appreciate a small and mighty grove of evergreens standing guard at the entrance of our community, as well as a particularly elegant tree now blossoming with pink flowers, at the west end of our circle. The trees and incessant bird-chattering that fill the air around them, of late, give me a sense of perspective that is both grounding and healing.

Yesterday, as I was walking around our cul-de-sac at sunset, a new sound greeted me; it was soft and somewhat unfamiliar, so I had to strain to listen. As I drew closer to the home of one of my neighbors, the sound grew louder, and I suddenly realized what I was hearing: someone was chanting prayers in Hebrew over a Seder meal, in celebration of Passover.

Even though I could not see what was happening through closed curtains just a few yards away, I could picture the scene in my mind’s eye: a family, gathered around a meal, candlelight and prayers. I stopped in my tracks, closed my eyes, and allowed the sound and image to wash over me. For a few moments, I was lost in a feeling of timelessness, tapping into the reality of generations of people of faith, who gather and pray and sing together, whatever is going on in the world around them; and lost in the power of this particular, ancient, sacred ritual: of gathering around a meal to remember how God saved God’s people, leading them out of slavery and suffering to freedom and new life.

Tonight, we too will sit at our tables in our homes, echoing the prayers of our Jewish brothers and sisters, recalling that night long ago when our Lord gathered with his friends and loved ones, to eat, pray, and remember. Despite the physical miles and neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs that separate us, we will be together, in Spirit and in Truth. And amidst our world’s present suffering, as generations before us have experienced and lived, God is with us, in us, among us, surrounding us, enfolding us, between us.

And God isn’t finished with us yet.

~Cristina

Dear Folks,

How are you?  How do your days unfold?  Are you an essential employee still traveling to work—tending to systems, filling prescriptions, moving packages, delivering food, reading x-rays?  Thank you.  Are you working or learning from home—zooming to meetings, sharing the wi-fi, submitting budgets or problem sets or contingency plans?  Thank you.  Are you waving to neighbors through the window, home-schooling your children, tending a sick relative, or organizing an emergency phone tree?  Thank you.  Are you taking care of yourself?  Thank you for that, too.

And how do you feel?  It makes sense if you are scared or lonely or angry or sad.  Everyone of us is dealing with some kind of loss right now—of health or freedom, of income or affection—and grief is an appropriate, even necessary response.  As with any death, if we bury our emotions now, our bodies know we are only postponing the inevitable.  If you want a good cry, watch the moving video of Italians standing on their village balconies and singing in response to the coronavirus. https://youtu.be/EBByYjjvNzs Why not organize your own concert on the street where you live?  Kazoos are fine, or pot lids or trumpets or xylophones.  And if you need to stand in the window and just yell every now and then, that may be exactly what the doctor ordered.  Our little family is making up songs and dancing most nights before dinner.  The dogs love it!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdcS0Nbo7Ng

Redeemer is bumping along pretty well.  70 volunteers are each calling/texting/emailing 15 parish families every week, and the connections being created or made stronger are heartening.  Most people report good health and spirits, adjusting to clipped wings and close quarters, adapting to new methods of reaching out.  Some folks are sick.  Some folks are anxious.  Some friends have had to postpone weddings or baptisms or funerals, and those difficult conversations have invited unexpected intimacies to lay alongside the despair.  Some of you tell me about rediscovering resilience you thought you’d lost. And we’ve not been able to connect with everyone in our database, perhaps because your contact information is incorrect or outdated.  If you haven’t heard from a Redeemer parishioner or clergy member in the last two weeks, send me an email or call my cell 443-970-1716.  I’d love to hear from you.

I am so pleased by how many people are watching our daily services, either live or later in the day.  Nearly 1000 people checked in last Sunday, and our daily services range from 250-400!  Thanks to Freda Marie, Cristina, Caroline, and Bert, we have invited a growing community to worship “at Redeemer.”  And you’ll read elsewhere in e-redeemer that community engagement continues in this new normal, as well.  Thank you!

Ahead of us is Palm Sunday and Holy Week.  Tune in this Saturday at 5:00 p.m. and Sunday at 10:00 a.m. for ways to bless the “palms” you already have in your house: the walk that Jesus made into Jerusalem 2000 years ago had people throwing coats and shirts on the ground and waving whatever branches they could find.  Take a look around you and see how you can re-enact that moment.  Tie to your mailbox or balcony or doorframe or light post something green (or a branch with buds or something with sleeves that can blow in the wind) this Sunday morning.  If your neighbors ask you about it, tell them about The Church of the Redeemer, and see how you might help each other through this time, and always.  On Maundy Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on our Facebook page we’ll have a virtual blessing over the bread and wine at your dinner table.  Join us to make palpable the commandment to love one another as God loves us.  Good Friday, we will send you “Stations of the Cross in the time of COVID-19.”  And what about Easter?!

When your trust is all but shattered, when your faith is all but killed, you can give up bitter and battered, or you can slowly start to build, a beautiful city.  Yes, we can, yes, we can! (Beautiful City)

Love,
David

 

Living into this 2nd week of the COVID-19 crisis reminds me of another time in my life.  It was the one and only time I ever got a “pink slip.” It came unexpectedly, out-of-the-blue and totally disrupted my life and the life of my family because I was the primary breadwinner.

I was the palliative care chaplain for Methodist Health System which included a Level 1 trauma center, a tertiary-care hospital, and a smaller community hospital in North Central Texas.  I loved my work providing support to the dying, their families, and friends.  I thought I had found my “niche” in life.  I was happy.

On this particular day, I was in CCU of one of the facilities as life-support was being discontinued on one of our patients.  I received a call on my pager to contact the pastoral care office.  When I did, I was asked to come down to the office when I could.  I thought, “no problem, later is soon enough.”

When I arrived, I was greeted by the Vice President of Pastoral Services and the Department Manager.  They asked me to sit down, handed me a letter to read, and waited for my response.  Of course, I was crushed.  I had no words.

After the initial shock, nothing prepared me for later…when fear and anxiety really set in!  My mind was filled with questions like, “how’re we going to pay the mortgage? Or what will our future or Crystal’s future look like now?  I was already 45 years old, scared and with no resources beyond the income already coming into our household.

My Mom was here at that time and gave me some motherly advice.  She reminded me to go back to what I know. The only way to know how God was speaking to my life situation was to ask.  So, I did.  I prayed…and I listened.  I learned not to disregard the voice within me who sounded like me.  I discovered that God’s Presence really was within me giving me a sense of guidance, resilience and peace.  That Presence resides within you as well.

During that really dark place, I discovered through my relationship with God an unprecedented invitation to reimagine my life.  I discovered that the more thought and energy I gave to the what if’s, the more anxious and agitated I became.  I learned to live more fully into the “Serenity Prayer.”

Sisters and Brothers, we are now being given an opportunity to reimagine life in a new way; in a godly way that more closely aligns with the way of Jesus Christ as we learn through Scriptures and see expressed through his followers within and beyond the walls of the church.  It is the WAY which does not shut out but invites in; a WAY that seeks to heal the wounded and gives hope to the hopeless.  This WAY is already available to us and resides within us, but it’s expression through us is not without a cost.  This is the heart of the Gospel.

When COVID-19 is over (and yes, it will end) I see a whole new horizon opened up to us.  I see us being honest and truthful with ourselves and each other.  I see us honoring our relationships with other human beings and with the rest of creation instead of ignoring and disregarding their inherent dignity. I see the Beloved Community existing all over the world.  It can happen.  It’s up to us to reimagine it so.

With many hugs and kisses…6 feet away of course! 😊

Freda Marie+

Serenity Prayer – Full Version (composed in 1940s)

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
Amen.

Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971)

 

Dear Folks,

When something kept my brother and me from going outside, we pushed the furniture against the walls and wrestled.  There were no rules for our accustomed tangles—all we knew were the professional wrestling matches we’d seen on Saturday morning TV—so things got nutty fast.  We would dive from the sofa, bend each other’s arms and legs backward at menacing angles, and hold each other’s noses to the floor.  We loved every minute of it, laughing and carrying on until one of us had the breath knocked out of him.  (It was always me, since Paul outweighed me by 10-15 pounds and had the confident moves of a natural athlete.)  My scrambling was fast but inefficient—picture Tweety Bird squaring off against Batman—so I’d try to make him laugh, if I needed some leverage.  When the howling got too loud (again, usually mine), our mom would put us at either end of the house.  She knew that being separated from each other was the worst punishment my brother and I could endure.  I still feel that way, and you may, too.

Out of an abundance of caution, all of us have been asked to practice physical distancing from one another.  Parishioners are working from home, meetings are being held online, college students have left dorm rooms and returned to Baltimore.  Some of us are on lock-down, not allowed to welcome visitors except over the phone or by text.  Schools are closed, with teachers and students making the best of handouts and e-chats.  Teenagers are talking through windows and discovering again how great it is to hear a voice through the phone.  And Bishop Sutton announced today that public services of worship are cancelled at least through May 15.

To stay connected, we are offering prayers on Facebook, live streaming services every day of the week. Our learning curve is steep!  Monday morning, Freda Marie was perfect.  Tuesday at noon, Cristina was broadcast sideways.  Thursday at noon, yours truly switched on the video feed halfway through the prayers, sideways again, with my hand covering the microphone.  Who knows how Friday will go!  Note the service times below, and please tune in; if a service is meaningful to you, invite friends and neighbors who need a boost.  We will offer a homily every Sunday morning.

To stay connected, we have grouped the parish into manageable portions, and recruited several dozen volunteers to reach out to each person at least once a week.  You are likely to be called, texted, or emailed by someone who is new to you, so this time of physical distancing may very well create some new friendships.  Please take advantage of being together in this way with another parishioner and give feedback to the clergy about how it’s going.

To stay connected, we will be sending e-Redeemer to you twice a week.  The clergy will continue to offer a reflection on Thursdays, and the Monday edition will provide resources from the Center for Wellbeing and any other news we have to share.  We’ll be sending prayers and articles and practices that foster healing of body, mind, and spirit.

To stay connected, we are in contact with our community partners, many of whom are particularly vulnerable at this time.  Some of you have already asked about how you can help, and we will provide information as we receive it.  See below for a way forward at this moment, knowing that things are changing every day.

We will be back together sometime soon, though I can’t tell you now exactly when that will be.  What I do know is that when we gather as a community again, it’ll be Easter, even if it turns out to be on the 4th of July!  We’ll be born again, with new ways of seeing and understanding what being connected means, new ways to know who God is even when so many have lost so much, and new ways to act and serve and love.

My brother and I used to pass notes under the door when we couldn’t be together, or we’d talk through the transom or knock out some version of Morse Code.  We figured out ways to say “I’m here” and “I love you.”  How can we do that for each other, now?

Love,
David

Streaming Services:
Morning Prayer will be offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8:00 a.m.
Noon Day Prayer will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12 noon.
Evening Prayer will be offered Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.
Morning Prayer with Sermon will be offered Sundays at 10:00 a.m.

Click here to join a live stream of a Diocesan Contemplative Eucharist celebrated at the Cathedral of the Incarnation at 11:00 a.m. on Sundays.

What a week. What a past 24-48 hours.

As I lay in bed last night, I couldn’t help but check my phone “one last time” for an update of the “novel virus” that has infiltrated its way into our lives and consciousness, upending routines and plans, trips and gatherings, schools and universities, stock markets and store shelves; making us and our loved ones feel vulnerable in a way that, for some, is an unwelcome new feeling, and for others, is yet one more thing to bump up the dial on an already high anxiety-meter.

Of our American celebrities, that Tom Hanks is the first with access to a public platform about all of this is, I believe, a bit of grace. In case you missed it, here’s what he posted on Instagram yesterday:

“Hello, folks. Rita and I are down here in Australia. We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches …Slight fevers too. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for Coronavirus, and were found to be positive … [We] will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires … Not much more to it than the one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated. Take care of yourselves! Hanx!”

For me, his post invoked the spirit of another man, whom he recently portrayed in the movie A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood. Imagine, for a few moments, what this man might be saying, were he still alive today … perhaps in conversation with a beloved character from his show, Daniel Tiger.

“I’m scared.”

Yes, I know. I am a little too. It’s okay to be scared.

“So many things feel out of my control! What can I do?” (fretfully, rubbing paws together)

Well, there are some things we know we can do … like wash our hands … take good care of ourselves and one another … get lots of rest … avoid large public gatherings…You know, our bodies are made to fight things like this, and most of us really are going to be okay. Things are just going to feel strange and different, for awhile. Especially not being able to hug and touch other people we see around, like we’re used to.

“I really don’t like that part!”

Me neither. It might help to remember it’s just for a season. It won’t be like this forever. It’s just hard now.

“And what about grandma and grandpa Tiger? And my friends who are already sick or maybe not so strong?”

Yes, they will need to be more careful, stay inside more, just to be safe. But the rest of us can help get them what they need. We just all need to stay connected in the ways we can. We will get through this, together.

“Thank goodness for our phones and emails! And all those other things I don’t know how to use but maybe I can learn and try!”

Yes indeed, thank goodness.

“Can I call you if I get more scared? Or if I need help? Or someone I know needs help?”

Of course, you can call me, Daniel Tiger. That’s what friends are for.

“I’m glad we are friends.”

Me too.

While that beloved minister has now travelled on to a Larger Audience, David, Freda Marie and I are here, and we welcome your calls, notes, emails. We all need one another, always, and especially in seasons and times like this. We are Christ’s hands and hearts — all of us — together, and God Is. Still. Always.

~Cristina

Helpful links:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps

https://www.bible-verses-to-inspire.com/encouraging-bible-verses.html

Latest information:

We will gather for worship at Faith@Five on Saturday, March 14, and then suspend all services until March 27.

Live broadcast of 11:00 a.m Sunday service at the National Cathedral.

Dear Folks,

I am writing to you as the coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread, to offer information, strength, and solace.

Gathering for us is essential—it is who we are, it is what we do—but at this moment doing what we normally do puts some people at risk.  For example, Bishop Sutton has advised all churches to not offer wine at communion, giving a thoughtful rationale for why receiving the Eucharist in one kind is in fact receiving the full sacrament.  Following that directive, I distributed only bread at our Wednesday morning Eucharist yesterday, but found it impossible not to touch almost every person’s hands in that exchange.  The intention was good, but the reality challenged the CDC directive for social distancing.

Because the Book of Common Prayer includes a beautiful set of services that do not include Communion, we will offer Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer until we feel sharing the Eucharist is advisable.

Large group gatherings are also problematic at this time.  I have conferred with individuals at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the School of Public Health, Hopkins Homewood campus, and GBMC and their directive is that our Sunday 10:00 service should not meet.  They advise reducing opportunities for large numbers of people to be together, to mitigate the spread of the virus and to limit demand on health care providers.  Governor Hogan has issued a state of emergency and expects significant disruptions and the potential for long-term closures.  At the governor’s direction we will stop celebrating the 10:00 service starting this weekend.

Our plan for the foreseeable future is to offer worship in smaller gatherings in this way, knowing things are changing by the day:

  • 8:00 Sunday, Morning Prayer with music, in the church
  • Noon Monday, Noonday Prayer, in the chapel
  • 7:30 Tuesday, Morning Prayer, in the chapel
  • 7:30 Wednesday, Morning Prayer, in the chapel
  • Noon Thursday, Noonday Prayer in the chapel
  • 7:30 Friday, Morning Prayer
  • 5:00 p.m. Saturday, Faith @ Five, Evening Prayer with music, in the church

Our hope is that by increasing the number of opportunities for worship, while decreasing their size, we offer a faithful and safe response to the health crisis.

Our choirs will continue to sing, but rehearsals will be held in the parish hall with significant distance between each person and his/her neighbor.  In the church, the choirs will also spread out, to provide social distancing.

We will not have Melrose Café, coffee hour, Lenten suppers, or receptions until we are advised the risk has passed.

Sunday School will not meet in person, but instead will be delivered on-line, with teachers following up with families as needed.

We are advised not to touch each other when we gather, which you all know is especially challenging for me and many others.  Rather, we are asked to make significant eye contact, while standing at a safe distance to talk.  This is a moment to connect on the phone, or while on a walk together, or through texts.

Because of their size, Bible Studies, RYG, 12-Step and other small groups, if they desire, will continue to meet. Women of Wisdom and the Men’s group have decided not to meet.

People who are over 60, or those who have a compromised immune system for any reason, are advised to thoughtfully consider not coming to church gatherings.  Anyone who has a fever, cough, or is experiencing shortness of breath should contact their health care provider.

We will continue to make pastoral calls, so please be in touch by phone or email.  In addition to clergy support, I am organizing a large team of parishioners to be in touch with every member of our community on a regular basis: to foster human contact and community, to know how you are doing, and to register concerns.  Please look for more details in the coming days.

As a community of faith, our primary work is to be the body of Christ, to be God’s heart and hands and hope in the world.  We especially need each other now.  Please reach out to folks you are close to and stretch to connect with someone who may be alone or vulnerable right now.

We’ll get through this, and we will be stronger and better for the difficult journey.

Love,
David

The Waitress grew up in a postcard: North Baltimore colonial, three kids and a dog, picture perfect, and lonely.  She watched her parents pour their first drink before sundown every afternoon, her mother in pearls and a fresh dress, her dad exchanging his briefcase for “something cold” as he crossed the threshold.  Even as a little girl she knew the names on the bottles, how the seasons affected what was poured, when to pass the hors d’oeuvres to guests, and when to swallow her feelings.  There was something dark under the family’s brittle surface that trained her to smile no matter what, and she internalized that her experiences were less important than her parents’ tangle of anger and regret.

Because the summer’s lack of structure was especially disconcerting to her mother, the girl was sent away with her teenaged siblings to work at a seaside resort.  She learned there how to cook and clean and make the most of a crowded bunkhouse, but more importantly she discovered how to draw people out and help them relax as she poured iced tea and served them pieces of pie.  “Comparing our beautifully set but always sad table at home to the sunny dining room at the beach was a revelation to me,” the Waitress said.  “People want to talk, and they want to tell you what they really care about.  They want to be understood, and some of them want to make a difference and help.”

She devoted her life to hearing people tell their stories, and in the small world that is Baltimore, she learned to connect one person’s deep longing with another’s deep need.  She cultivated relationships “with people who had everything and people who had nothing,” and made the most of it when an opportunity came knocking.  “I learned to be bold.  If I knew one of the people I served had money and that there was a school that needed it, I asked them to do something about it.”  The Waitress was especially proud at the end of her life to know that hundreds of children had better classrooms and art studios and playing fields because of her efforts.

Fully told, the Waitress’s story was punctuated by pain.  Perhaps unable to receive kindness herself, she wanted others to feel it and know it.  Her longing to repair lost relationships was both the fire in her belly to create places of nurture and possibility, and a familiar sadness that never fully healed. She tried to make the most of a difficult childhood, and at home, out of the sunlight, with her own husband and children, she would be the first to admit that she didn’t always measure up.

But she was a survivor.  The Waitress knew the hungering darkness, like the Teacher from Nazareth who she admired so much.  And like him, she offered what she had to kindle the light.

Love,
David