I think we might be near or actually upon the one-year anniversary of “however many days to flatten the curve.” I saw a post somewhere of people naming things they plan to try to keep in their lives whenever covid is “over,” if that will ever be a thing. In the spirit of St. Patrick’s day (the spiritual part, not the debauchery part), here are three good things that have come out of covid.
One- Zoom Morning Prayer
Back in the day, when we first came to Good Shepherd, we started Morning Prayer Tuesday through Friday. Four or five older, retirement-aged ladies came faithfully every single day, so that a community of prayer developed, as it should, and carried us along through all the trials and tribulations of our early ministry. When we moved from the old building (now mosque) to the new one, that cluster of ladies gradually declined in health, and then became “shut-in” (I hate that term), and were not able to come at that or any other hour, and there was no one to take their place. For many many years, we have not said the daily office in the church building, and this has always been heartbreaking to me as I have struggled to pray on my own, isolated in my house. Now, with zoom, the community of prayer is regathering, everyone in their own homes, and yet together on the screen. I don’t think, modern life being what it is, that we will ever be able to pray every day together in the actual building, but 12 to 20 people showing up every single morning (more when you count all the children lounging about) is pretty amazing.
Two- “Essential Services”
I dislike and don’t really approve of some kinds of jobs and businesses being categorized as “essential” and others as “non-essential” because, of course, to the people who run them and need them, they are necessary. I think it was rather a bad way of thinking about actual people’s livelihoods and communities. On the other hand, by the use of that word, I was forced to consider what I really do need in order to be ok, and discovered in a new way the thing that I already did know, and that is that church is essential. To all the people who shouted that Christians should not be haters, that the church doesn’t “have to meet,” you can “just meet on zoom,” I spent most of the year muttering, “yes and no.” Of course we “can” meet on zoom, or Facebook live. And we did do that. But we can’t do that forever. Church on zoom isn’t really church any more than exercising is me watching people dance around on youtube lying on the mat without actually lifting the horrible weights. It works for a while, but eventually, I have to be with other believers in person (hopefully safely). By use of the word “essential,” I think much of the English-speaking world was accidentally invited to properly examine their lives and make adjustments accordingly, and that was not at all a bad thing.
Three- Radical Dependence On God
I’ve always been a big fan of this, and think everyone should try it, but in the era of covid, it has taken on epic proportions for me. When everyone is shut away in their houses and you don’t really know how they are and if they are ok, your prayer life intensifies (which is the understatement of the century). You have to put people you love in God’s hands over and over and over. And then, as people died one by one, I was forced, like everyone else, to admit that God’s plans are not mine, and not within my grasp to bring about, and that I am not able to do what I want or be the person I want to be, even at the best of times. I think I’ve said this before, but the whole year has been an exercise in “tucking and rolling.” When a catastrophe strikes, I practice going spiritually limp. I fall straight to the floor without trying to stiffen up or fight God. I lie there (usually not actually lying down, but certainly in spirit) weeping, and then I stand up and keep going, waiting for the next blow and hoping that I will be allowed to catch my breath. Is God good? Lots of people don’t think so. But I think he is, and so the best thing to do is to let him organize the world the way he wants. That, for me, would not have included either death or disease, but in his mercy, somehow it has.
Well, happy St. Patrick’s Day! And may God have mercy on all our souls.