What kind of faith gets people through the wilderness, through plagues, through self-imposed isolation or through infection rates again on the rise (what some are calling a 4th wave)?
We could turn to the Easter stories for a clue. After all, none of them suffer from the kind of forced optimism of happiness memes. They all take seriously the events of Holy Week, the pain and devastation when the State puts to death the one you pinned your hopes on. The stories of Easter begin in the dark or when the light of dawn is just barely visible.
But as we pass the year mark in our time worshipping online or in small groups in the garden, I'm interested in the timing of it all. In the gospels passed down to us (or at least how we've come to interpret these traditions), the events of Holy Week– the parade of hosannas, the last supper, the arrest and trial, the back and forth jurisdictional disputes, the imprisonment, the torture, the judgment, another march to the Golgotha, the execution with agonizing hours of trying to catch one's breath, the hurried burial and then discovery of the resurrection–all this happens in a week.
And the disciples are found locked away in a room, hunkered down with the grief of lost hopes.
It all seems a little quick–putting that all in the span of a few days. As if, ALL we can handle of the passion, is one holy week, and not even a full week. Amy-Jill Levine in her book, Entering the Passion, says its much more likely that the events unfolded over months, even a year – but who can tolerate months of isolation, of uncertainty and anxious waiting to know how the story will end? We've had a year of waiting to see how the story of the pandemic will end and I'm not sure we have the patience for a passion story that last months. How will we find the encouragement to endure? We need a faith with a longer time-line.
I was talking to a non-religious friend yesterday about our pandemic fatigue and our desire to worship again in the sanctuary despite the best health advice calling gatherings of more than a handful of people indoors "very dangerous." And she said, "don't you have that guy who wandered in the desert for a long time?" Yes, we have Moses, but I'm pretty sure "40 years" was symbolic more than literal.
But one thing that story of a people wandering does teach is that we can't force life into our time. Anxiety does not easily comply to our control issues. Faith is found by a people on the move and hidden away in fear. In Paul's world, it's found in small groups gathered in homes, in letters connecting cells of believers across distance, and in financial gifts shared to help those they'd never see in person.
We can't insist church happens only when we're gathered within the walls of a sanctuary. We can't restrict the spirit's appearance or require it to meet or time frame.
Instead, let's ask ourselves what faith would look like if we were the church of a Living Christ, set loose in the world, calling for costly discipleship. –a Christ that can't be handled according to our desires or anxieties, –a Christ who isn't found only in a sanctuary, –a Christ who wants to be found not in the rooms of a building but in our hearts.
Tell the story of resurrection faith again for yourself. How is a Living Christ set loose in your life? How is it calling you to be the body of Christ for the world? How is it available to you beyond the community of faith gathered in a sanctuary? How does the story speak of patience and a longer time line than your imagined possible? How does a story of new life call us out of the cocoons of ritual comfort? How does the story allow us to be Easter people in a world so hungry for good news? How can the story encourage, transform, embolden in this time?
Regarding Funeral Services
The Re-entry Committee recently met and determined the church may open the sanctuary for private, in-person, family funeral services for church members only. These services will be subject to strict safety protocols, including and not limited to guest lists, health screenings, new traffic patterns and no singing, as well as required masks, etc. We will not serve a meal. This policy is subject to change with public health recommendations and available data.
It may seem strange that we are allowing in person funerals while community transmission of COVID-19 is still very high in Nashua and numbers of cases are rising. The committee agreed that this data is concerning. In light of this, we continue to recommend remote worship for the congregation. In the case of private funerals, however, it is safer for our ministry team and for grieving family members to have small family services in the large, well-ventilated sanctuary than in smaller spaces with less-adequate ventilation.
I would like to thank the members of the Re-entry Committee for their continual, thoughtful discernment on these sensitive matters. I also give thanks for the congregation's continued forbearance during this time of challenge. Even if you are vaccinated, please continue to wear your masks, wash your hands, and physically distance to keep viral transmission low, as the possibility of asymptomatic transmission through vaccinated people is not yet determined by the scientific community, and vaccines are not yet available to younger people, including children. We all look forward to when we can safely gather many families and households together in the sanctuary for worship. We're just not quite there yet.
We have some very exciting news to share! If you are still looking to get your COVID-19 vaccine, the Nashua Division of Public Health & Community Services has announced today that they will be hosting a clinic on Wednesday, April 14th from 9am to 4pm in Merrimack offering the single dose Janssen vaccine (Johnson & Johnson). The only requirements for this clinic are people who are 18+ and reside in New Hampshire.
If you have already scheduled a vaccination appointment through the state website (VINI), but want to attend this clinic, you just need to cancel your appointment previously made through VINI.