Governor Hogan spoke from Annapolis yesterday and announced a first move toward relaxing his stay-at-home order. Replacing it with a safer-at-home advisory, the State will allow retail, manufacturing, and worship services to resume with limitations. Some things do not change: face masks must be worn in indoor public areas, individuals with underlying health issues should continue to stay inside, and employees who can are encouraged to work from home. Physical distancing continues to be required. Laid alongside the governor’s advisory is guidance from Bishop Sutton, who is working closely with the Bishops of Washington and Virginia. Importantly, the Diocese said yesterday that in-person worship services are not allowed this weekend, giving us time to respond, and that more specific directives will be issued next week. The through line for me is this: appropriate next steps for gathering the faith community will be the guided by public health experts, the wisdom of medical providers, and sound spiritual leadership.
To this end, I am forming a small group of parishioners and staff members to envision what a way forward looks like for Redeemer. The group includes a medical doctor, a public health leader and educator, a senior who is a long-time parishioner, a nurse with school-aged children, and a young adult. Our work is spiritual and emotional, as well as being practical and informed by science. Some questions that will anchor us: What is the most thoughtful way to gather a community when some members are safer at home? How do we foster togetherness while staying physically distant? What is the best use of our indoor and outdoor worship spaces? And perhaps most importantly, as we reclaim rituals that we remember and love, how do we remain mindful about what the pandemic has revealed?
I am struck by how many ways the soil at Redeemer is being prepared for our new life ahead. Each week our choirs meet by zoom to check-in, to share losses and victories, and even to try singing a little. The community they are fostering on computer screens is certainly different from what they might experience in a rehearsal room around a piano, but it is strikingly vibrant and healing still. With courage they are asking how to sing the Lord’s song in a new way, before a vaccine is developed. Each Monday the Center for Wellbeing invites an on-line conversation about spiritual and emotional health, and the laughter and thoughtful reflection are a balm. On Wednesdays the Rector’s Bible study is reading the story of Ezra to remember how the Hebrew people returned to Israel after their exile. “The Temple they are rebuilding is not just made of stones,” one member reflected this week. “They are restoring themselves as they return. Maybe they have discovered that the Temple was inside them all along, never limited to a building.” A zoom group is gathering to ask “How can we be the change that COVID-19 has revealed to us?” Young people and seniors are meeting through texts or emails; some have realized that their iPhones can make phone calls! And look at all we are discovering about worship on-line…
How are your eyes and ears different, through the gifts and the grief of the last two months? What do you know today that you don’t want to forget? What changes are calling, what new life is rising, what is the Spirit asking you to finally put down? Dying and rising, it feels like we are discovering ways of being that have been there all along. Step by step, spade by spade, day by day—See you when the time is right.