Friday, March 28

Good morning, dear church,

We are getting closer to the eye of the storm, I believe. You remember that movie “Perfect Storm” with George Clooney? Well, the waves are getting bigger and we are nearing the point when they may crash upon us. When you follow the news you know that the US has now the world’s largest number of Corona cases; you see that New Jersey is bracing for hospital capacity shortages; New York has been screaming for more ventilators; California is projected to be the new epicenter in our country. For sure, the population centers will have a harder time dealing with this pandemic compared to rural and suburban areas. In my phone calls to our parishioners I sense that most of us are still able to work, albeit many of us from home. I haven’t heard of any shortages of food or basic supplies. But I believe the storm surge will get more severe before it hopefully abates. And the metaphor that we have often used for life situations is very fitting this time: we are all in the same boat.  You can tell that also from the number of prominent people who are infected or affected by the pandemic.  Every day there are a few more revelations. First, it was Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson. Then we heard about members of congress and the senate. Football payers, basketball players, all kinds of athletes. Prince Charles has it. Boris Johnson has it. Heads of state are under quarantine…  Yes, those “important” people may get more attention and better treatment, but even just the fact that they couldn’t avoid this sneaky virus is telling.  I am saying all this sure confidence that as will get through this storm. And no, I am not using this as an opportunity to preach to you about Mark 34: 35-42 (Jesus calming the storm). However, remember how calm he was in all of it!

In our house, we have very rarely ventured out, trying to keep exposure at an absolute minimum, because we can, and because not only we ourselves will benefit from that practice but others may too. We are actually experimenting with how long we can live on our food supplies without going to the store. It’s an interesting experience, one we would never voluntarily sign up for under “normal” circumstances. And so I wake up and go downstairs and I see an empty fruit basket.  And I look into the drawer and there is no fresh bread. And the vegetables come to us only in the form of frozen goods at this point. Oh, and the chocolate s gone! It is an interesting experience and I will confess that I have been tempted to sneak off to the store to re-stock. (And please don’t offer to send us anything, we could do that ourselves.) But it is an interesting experience that helps me very gradually to connect with the experiences of those who are suffering most at this time. That’s one of the core rationales for fasting in the context of the Christian faith: to identify with others who are deprived, to pray and of course to get closer to Jesus. Wow, what a Lenten season!

Thank you once again for all of your responses and comments on these emails. I’d like to share a few again.  Sharon B. wrote about lessons we are learning during this time.

“I hope that we learn from this how to be kinder to each other.  It is amazing as I read stories, Facebook posts, tweets, etc. of those random acts of kindness – helping an elderly person food shop, sharing TP because your neighbor really needs it, not thinking of just ourselves, distilleries opening up to make sanitizer and sharing for the good of the community and not for a $buck, etc.., etc…  I’ve been trying to be better about reaching out to my virtual co-workers who are truly struggling with little ones as they try to work. 

I also hope that we learn not to take the environment for granted.  One article that has stuck out for me is the dolphins and ocean life that came back to the water in Venice, Italy canals.  When we as humans were forced to slow down, the water and animals “came back”.  We need to learn that many of our acts are killing the earth and that maybe after all of this, we will all think twice or think about what we can do to preserve our precious earth.  I love the church’s newly formed environmental committee – I can’t wait to see how it takes shape.  I know each day I try to do my little part; even now.   It kills me when I have to use a sandwich bag now for any reason!

Anyway, I am rambling in my note too, but just wanted you to know, thank you for reaching out to us.  We may not respond, but there are many of us reading and listening to your thoughts.”

Jennifer M. connected with my call for prayer for all of the health workers who are much more exposed than most of us. She is also facing another situation that’s difficult for a number of parents: shared custody. Those of us who share custody for children have to make some not so easy decisions to limit physical exposure to different households and people.  She writes this…

“Pastor, I have really enjoyed your daily emails. I am someone who works in healthcare and has to come to work throughout this pandemic. I usually receive your email while I’m at my desk and it’s nice to take a little break to read your kind words. Thankfully I do not have to come in much contact with patients because I am on the billing side of things, but it still makes me nervous to come in. About half of our patients have decided to stay home, but we do still have some people coming in that have had recent surgeries and need rehabilitation so they don’t have more problems down the road when this is all over.

Elizabeth has been staying with her dad at his house… He and his wife are able to work from home indefinitely and we decided it would be safer for her there since I still have to come to work and be around people. It’s been rough not having her home, but I know it’s for the best, and only temporary. I’ve never been so thankful for technology and the ability to video chat with her! She usually rolls the prayer dice before dinner every night, so Doug and I have been taking turns doing it and saying the prayer.

I have also been reading through the Sunday services. I have not tuned in on Facebook because I gave up social media for Lent! I find it ironic that it is now the only way I can “go to church” during this time.

Stay safe! — Jennifer”

My wife was wondering about the bishop’s comments about “virtual communion.” The Bishop wrote:

“Most of our congregations/communities of faith find “virtual communion” to be a deviation from the norm that should not be promoted. However, I trust that our Rostered Ministers and councils are caring for their congregations/communities of faith as they see fit.”  

What Bishop Davenport is referring to here is the practice of Virtual Holy Communion. I think it mostly works like this: you have your own elements at home and a pastor or priest blesses the elements via conference call, Skype or whatever and people receive Holy Communion that way. The Bishop is saying that some scholars and church leaders regard this as a “deviation from the norm” but she leaves it up to us pastors to make those decisions for our parishes. In case you wonder, I am not a big fan. Holy Communion is important to me, but it’s not like our spiritual welfare is at stake because of a prolonged break. I would really only do this as a last resort and consider it if this quarantine lasts much longer than expected. But as with so many things, I am not closing my mind to the possibility. What do you think?

Please remember that we are collecting food for Manna on Main Street today between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Please leave your bags outside of the church door. We handle them with much care and when they get to Manna they are stored in a quarantine room for several days to avoid any contamination.

Also: If you haven’t seen our church highlight video, please go on our website and check it out. It’s pretty nice. Or click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRVKKxw77Lo&feature=youtu.be

Today we congratulate Matt B. and Eric J. on their birthdays.

Stay safe and be blessed!

Pastor Andreas Wagner

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