Recently I asked my nephew, an inner-city cop responsible for policing some of the toughest neighborhoods in Boston, what human characteristic he felt could tie us all together. He said, “empathy.”

Empathy is the ability to recognize what another person is experiencing. It allows us to align our emotions and concerns around other people – not just ourselves.

When our church was forced to hold our worship services virtually, it put our pastor Ed and our music director Hal in a challenging position – to preach and to play to an empty sanctuary. Apprehensive as we all were, we logged in and watched Ed lead us in this new way, along with Hal at the organ and the piano. People were happy to be connected again, even in a digital way.

A few days later, our church moderator Judy popped up with an idea that came clearly from a place of empathy. She said. “Let’s put pictures of ourselves in the pews we typically occupy. Then Ed as he preaches and Hal as he plays music will feel our presence. ” This idea didn’t come from a desire to promote ourselves. It came from a place of empathy.

Needless to say, both Ed and Hal felt a new sense of warmth and connection in the sanctuary. As we continue to love and care for one another, our connection may grow in many new and surprising ways. As the note on the back wall says, “We are with you.”