0705 PV ReligionColumn jonathanChute.jpg

“To Everything There Is A Season…”

This year some Christians are finding we are giving up more in Lent than we ever expected or intended.

The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has hit people hard in so many ways. Even those who have not experienced COVID-19 directly are being affected.

Of course those whose families have been touched by the virus know it even more clearly.

From front line workers in hospitals, clinics or grocery stores, overwhelmed by the tasks before them, to those working in the service economy, whose jobs have been put on hold or eliminated entirely, our community, our nation, our world are feeling its impact in every sector of our lives.

Schoolteachers are trying to create lessons which their students can access from home. Parents are trying to discover how to replace an entire educational system from the familiar confines of their kitchen table. So it is hardly surprising that the religious community should also be included in this chaotic time.

This year, we are giving up any semblance of normalcy for Lent.

Pastors who had beautiful outlines for topical sermon series have watched their plans blow away like dried leaves.

I have seen more worship services led by colleagues on the internet this past week than in the past ten years. As one of my friends observed, “We’re all becoming televangelists these days.”

But with the social distancing required to keep ourselves and our people safe, she added that she “always thought I’d have more staff.”

Clergy are learning all about live streaming, video recording, podcasting, copyright laws, and all kinds of things they never taught in seminary. We are relying either on dedicated and capable volunteers or experiencing our own steep learning curve (or both!).

Pastors used to providing care of the most personal kind, visiting with people in times of illness or loss, in crisis or in everyday ordinary life, are feeling removed and remote from those in our congregations.

But we are reaching out by phone, by email, by text – by all the appropriate socially distant means that we can to keep in touch while we are away.

We have moved quickly to providing worship services on line – in our case, YouTube. Others are doing Facebook Live, or Vimeo, or gathering for worship using Zoom or other teleconference service.

It is all new to many of us, but we have also seen how valuable it can be. We have heard from church members and friends who now live around the world or across the country, who are grateful that “their church” is now available to them from a distance. We are glad and grateful for these new possibilities.

Aside from the logistical challenges we face, it is important to recognize that we are experiencing significant and substantial grief through these days.

Things we had counted on, looked forward to and worked on for years, have been taken away. Families have been unable to welcome the birth of a baby, or mourn the loss of a loved one.

Students are unable to complete important classwork, or internships. Even nursing and medical students have been sent home because the hospitals where they need to be cannot accommodate them safely. How or when will they be able to complete their training?

When I meet with families in a time of loss, one of the things I often say to them is that the days that surround the death of a loved one are harder on us than we realize. It is a time to be unusually kind to each other – and to ourselves.

It is important to be unusually kind to each other because we never know what to say. But sometimes we say it anyway. People who mean to be consoling and comforting say some of the most unhelpful and uncaring things.

It’s important to be unusually kind to ourselves because we, too, may find ourselves thinking or saying some of those same things, either to ourselves or to someone around us.

We may displace our grief – take it out on someone who did nothing to deserve our anger or distress.

We will do better if we can begin to practice forgiveness close to home – with ourselves – and then extend the same grace to others.

Bob Dylan wrote that his grandmother taught him, “Be kind, because everyone you’ll ever meet is fighting a hard battle.” Everyone. Including you. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes said that there was a time, and a purpose, for every matter under heaven. There is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.

We’re keeping our distance these days, while we stretch and grow in all kinds of ways we never wanted. With you, I look forward to our joyful reunion.

Jonathan Chute is Senior Pastor at Rolling Hills United Methodist Church. which usually worships each Sunday at 8:30 and 10 a.m., and at 5:30 p.m. You may now also watch the congregation’s service on YouTube, by visiting their website: www.rhumc.org

 

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.