It was just about two years ago that the covid lockdown began. After church on the second Sunday of March 2020, we had a meeting to discuss the situation. About 20 people attended. We sat in a circle. We decided that we wanted to create a ritual to do each day to remember covid. So people were encouraged to pick a time that would work for them each day, light a candle, and offer the prayer that was created based on the church’s mission statement. If you couldn’t light a candle, you could turn on the flashlight on your phone. We were looking for light and hope in what was becoming an increasingly dark picture.
At the end of the gathering, we decided that we would monitor the situation and respond accordingly. We had no idea that we would not be back together again worshipping in the sanctuary for many months. It never occurred to us that we would not be coming back to church, as usual, the next Sunday. Or the next. Or the next. Not even an Easter service. Really? I mean, we never cancel church. Well, in the past 30 years, we have had to cancel church twice due to hurricanes. But basically, church goes on. Period.
And even though we could not safely meet, even though we could not gather in person, even though there was no service in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, even though the piano wasn’t played for over a year, even though there was no one working in the office on a regular basis, even though, even though, even though – the church did go on. Church went on.
There were weekly Corona Sabbath posts with scripture, prayers, reflections, and music to feed our spirits. There were videos for special occasions like Earth Day and Mother’s Day with pictures contributed by the congregation. The sanctuary was open for prayer each Sunday morning and there was support and solace for the few who needed that space. There were weekly labyrinth walks outside, physically distanced. There were emails and posts on the website and phone calls helping the congregation maintain its ministry and stay connected. There were advisors meetings held outside under the trees. There were the herculean efforts of the Care Team, expanded from a ministry to the homebound and infirm to a ministry to the whole congregation now homebound. There were cards, flowers, drive-by visits, signs held up and seen through windows. There were outdoor visits by the gates of Westminster Suncoast to see not only church members but others who simply were eager for interpersonal contact with the ‘outside’ world. There was help provided to people in the congregation and beyond who were in need. Oh, and did I say there were Zoom meetings? And even Zoom services, Zoom communion, and other Zoom gatherings? Quite a stretch for a church that intentionally identifies as high touch/low tech.
Through these two years of an absolutely crazy ride, that felt at times like Disney’s Space Mountain, a roller coaster in the dark, the church went on. While scientists scrambled for vaccines and cures. The ministry of the church continued. While politicians wrangled over protecting the health and safety of people as well as the economy. The church was here to provide the spiritual support and inspiration that was needed to navigate our way through this unfolding saga.
Over six million people are dead because of this virus. Sisters. Brothers. Lovers. Mothers. Fathers. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. Neighbors. Friends. Coworkers. Celebrities. Entertainers. Politicians. Teachers. Doctors. Nurses. Cleaning people. Store clerks. So many people. Gone. Our hearts are broken open. So much love. So much grief.
While so many people and so many activities and organizations and traditions are gone, finished, the church is still here to see us through. To help us heal. To renew our appreciation for the sacredness of each and every life. Despite all that has gone on, the body of Christ is still standing. Embodying Divine Love. Shining light and hope for the world. This virus could not take down the church. That is the wildness of mercy.
Prayer: Take a few moments to think about how covid has affected your life. Think about the things you had to give up. The things you missed. The people who are gone. Think about how things are different now because of covid. Then give thanks that through it all, the wildness of Divine mercy has still found us and sustained us, even through the ministry of our beloved church. Amen.