Dear St. John’s,
Earlier in the winter I had hoped that this Easter Sunday would be the day when we would gather again to worship in person. I imagined a sanctuary bursting with flowers and resounding with trumpets and Alleluias. I imagined celebrating after the service in the parish hall with coffee and cake, and gazing up at the new, life-size, wooden cross hanging on the wall above us. How wonderful would that be!
Earlier this month it became clear that for Easter this year the pandemic restrictions would still in place for indoor worship. It also became clear that the temperatures would still be too cold, and the yard too snow-covered, for outdoor worship. I was feeling disappointed about the prospect of another Holy Week on Zoom. Sitting in front of a computer screen can’t compare to sitting in front of the altar, and singing alone can’t compare to singing with others.
Yesterday my attitude shifted when a clergy friend asked on the phone, “So many people have spoken about this pandemic as a time of being in the wilderness, and now it’s seemingly close to over. What were the lessons of the wilderness for the Jewish people escaping Egypt? And what are the lessons for us?” We brainstormed some of the lessons for our spiritual ancestors during the Exodus: the temptation to return to safety, even if it’s slavery; and how problems so often follow victories. And we began to brainstorm some of the things we have learned as church communities during the pandemic: how to connect and collaborate across parishes in the diocese through Zoom; and how to ground ourselves in the rhythm of morning and evening prayer during times of uncertainty. However, my colleague’s question, more than any particular answer we discussed, shifted my attitude from disappointment to curiosity. I found myself less impatient to be out of the wilderness and more intent to make sure that we let God transform us – individually and collectively – while we are still in it. The wilderness is a hard but blessed place to be!
And so I ask the same of you, in case you, too, find yourself disappointed that we won’t’ be celebrating a “normal” Easter. “What are the lessons for us during this remaining time in the wilderness?” And I will add, “How can this Holy Week be a time to learn them?” Some Easter morning we will again hear trumpets and sing Alleluia in unison. In the meantime, I hope that this quieter and socially-distant Holy Week brings new life and new learning that we can carry with us into whatever new beginnings await.