Did you ever think that going to a church supper would mean driving by the church and having someone hand you a quiche to be eaten at home?
When did you first imagine that you could experience the sights and sounds of worship at Greensboro United Church of Christ while viewing your computer? Would you have ever thought that Holy Communion could be bread from your kitchen, a cup from your cabinet, and served at your table?
I belong to a minister’s group on Facebook called “Things they Never Taught you in Seminary.” All kinds of stories get told there. The stories usually involve conflict on some level as humans can be conflicted over an endless number of issues. Some of those issues are issues that no one ever imagined being issues. So unique and unusual situations get posted and the other ministers in the group offer encouragement, suggestions, and support.
Then 2020 happened. One year ago, we decided to livestream our service and worship at a distance. Every week and month that followed was another experience of accommodating the situation in which the Covid19 pandemic had placed us. All the while, our nation was experiencing a continued erosion of civility and a festering political environment that would result in our Capitol being attacked for the first time since the British did so on August 24, 1814. Nothing anyone learned in seminary could have anticipated a year like 2020. Every week became a seminar of sorts, learning new ways to safely be church, minister to our community, and share the love of God.
During the course of the year, we confirmed what many may have suspected. There is an abundance of creativity and imagination in our church. At the same time, there is a deep love for and connection to this congregation among those who find their spiritual home here. Inhabited by a pervasive spirit of cooperation and generosity, that passion and energy emerged in the last year in beautiful and compassionate ways to nurture the spirit and soul of our faith community. For this reason, we have not only endured this pandemic, in many ways, we have thrived.
One of the Mary Oliver poems that we are reading in our Lenten reflections gets at what the experience of 2020 has been for me.
Why worry about the loaves and fishes? If you say the right words, the wine expands. If you say them with love and the felt ferocity of that love and the felt necessity of that love, the fish explode into many. Imagine him, speaking, and don’t worry about what is reality, or what is plain, or what is mysterious. If you were there, it was all those things. If you can imagine it, it is all those things. Eat, drink, be happy. Accept the miracle. Accept, too, each spoken word spoken with love.
I do not begin to know how we have done what we have done this year. All I know to do is to “accept the miracle” of it. And to be thankful.