What a rollercoaster ride our lives have become! When things began escalating around COVID-19 in March and we moved everything to online rather than in person, most of us expected it to last 2-4 weeks…6 weeks at the most. We all though, “we can do this. It won’t be long.” Like most pastors in the middle of this, I moved into something of a crisis mode. My adrenaline went way up and I surprised myself with some of the things that I found I was capable of…things I had been afraid of trying before there was no avoiding the necessity.
Then comes a crash. One thing I learned when I volunteered on a suicide and crisis line was that our systems can’t maintain crisis level functioning for more than 6 weeks. Many of us started to be very tired and require more sleep. We may still need more sleep. I hope that you’re good to yourself and get all the sleep that you need. It’s normal right now.
We began to settle into a new routine and it didn’t seem quite so bad. Easter came and we were certain that we would be back together for Pentecost. But it didn’t happen and for some, it may have started to seem hopeless. I could be wrong, but it seems that all of us are beginning to become less connected to one another, including within our church family. Some of us may be withdrawing into our selves.
A couple of weeks ago it looked like we just might be given the green light to begin first steps to reopening our building. And then the number of positive tests, and of even greater concern the number of hospitalizations and deaths, began to spike again. And it doesn’t seem to be stopping. On Monday, June 22 I attended a Zoom call with Bishop McKee and clergy of the Metro District…while in the car trying to get some vacation down time. And there is no doubt that we in the Metro District (Dallas County) are not released to begin a gradual opening of buildings.
So my siblings in Christ, I’m calling on you to join me. I refuse…REFUSE…to lie down and let anything beat me. My soul, my heart, and even my body will thrive in the midst of that which would break me. I will not go to bed with my covers over my head, waking only long enough to cry myself back to sleep! (FYI, I wasn’t really doing this) This week I am deliberately and intentionally moving into a new phase.
Andy and I have both decided that whenever the time comes to re-enter the world, we will be able to fit into our clothes. Jokes abound about how much we are not just eating but eating the wrong things. We laugh because it’s true and at least it’s not just us. We are both attending carefully to what we put in our mouths…not just for the sake of our weight but for our health. I’m not going to start running at my age, but a regular walking plan is in my immediate future…starting today. In February I came at least close to my bottom goal in steps each day. Yesterday I was only 1/3 of the way there. It’s not good enough. Will it be hot in a mask even during the cooler parts of the day? You betcha’. It won’t kill me. I’ll sweat a little. And I will recognize the truth of what longer term high levels of stress do to our bodies and allow myself all the sleep that this temple that I inhabit wants.
I am also adding more regular type routine back into my life. While continuing to get all the sleep that I need, I’m going to bed earlier so that I don’t need to sleep as late. I’m thankful for the routine of daily devotionals, 2 weekly bible studies, and worship with all of you. You keep me from completely falling off the rails. But it’s not enough. In February I had specific weekly tasks that I routinely did on routine days. Now, as long as it gets so, so what. It’s not good enough. It can become all too easy to not put the time into important tasks such as future planning that will keep us all not just on the track but on the right track in the days, weeks, months, and even years ahead. One day or even one week at a time is not good enough advanced planning So all those little organizational tools that once kept me on track, are back in use. Our church is on a month-to-month basis while we wait to be able to start the gradual process back to in person community. So we now need not one but two tracks…one for beginning and the other for continuing.
Probably the one thing that I haven’t lost track of is my time with God. It’s not because I’m better than anyone else but because that’s where I seem to daily collapse. But to be comforted is not enough. I must also listen to the voice of God whispering, sometimes singing, in my ear. I am deliberately seeking out ways to add music to my life that doesn’t include singing. Music is part of worship. As a preacher, it is one place that I can most completely experience worship and singing was part of it. But I must face the truth that singing in worship is one of the very last things that will return to our experience, battling common bread and cup Communion for first (or last) place. So I WILL find other ways to fill my heart and soul with both music and praise.
I do have one piece of very, very good news for you. Bishop McKee has released clergy to offer online Communion for the duration of our time apart. I personally am very grateful. I know that it’s not the same as being together. But I also know that the power of the Holy Spirit is not to be minimized. If the Holy Spirit can, through a Holy Mystery, transform bread and juice into the very presence of Christ, then that same Spirit can transform us into one Body even using the technology of our time. In working with our Leadership Team, it has been decided that we will begin on July 12th with a full Communion service. We will have a full service on the first Sunday of each month and an abbreviated service all other Sundays. We need this. We need liturgy and elements that keep us more than connected but fused into one Body during this time more than we may have ever needed it before. So beginning on July 12th, prepare your table each week for Holy Communion. Pull out the cup and plate that you decided to set aside this next week. Don’t use them for any other purpose. Get the bread and juice that you will use. Grape juice is available even through grocery pick up. And begin now preparing your hearts, minds and souls to receive the body and blood of Christ.
I am grateful to our calling team for all that they do, not just now, but always to try and keep us connected. And yet, with the Leadership Team, I realize that we need even more during this time to keep us bound together and to keep our spirits whole. So the Leadership Team has each taken a list of households to call. You will hear from someone roughly every two weeks. You may wonder why you are not hearing from someone with whom you already have a close relationship. Chances are you already hear from them. This is an opportunity to build new relationships with people you may not already be close to. This is not a duty call. We really want to know how you are doing. If you especially need to hear from me, tell them so and you’ll get what you need. If you need a social distancing, masked visit, tell them so and I will be in touch to schedule a time when I can come by for a visit. I will be in touch with each member of the team and their families weekly. And those of you who may be at highest risk due to health issues will also hear from me periodically. Remember, you can always call me even if you are just feeling disconnected or out of sorts.
I pray that you will join me in taking care of our hearts, minds, bodies, and especially our souls as we enter this new loop on the rollercoaster ride.
Peace be with you,