The last time we worshipped in our Church together was March 8th and +Bishop Chilton was with us. Do you remember that? It seems like ages ago…and like yesterday. We know that stay-at-home orders will end and that we will once again gather around our altar for Holy Eucharist, but when that will be is still uncertain.
On April 22, +Bishop Mariann released the beginning of guidelines for reopening our churches. She was VERY CLEAR that we cannot assume that we will be back in our spaces by May 16. (+Bishop Mariann originally set May 16th as a target date to reopen.)
In that press release, +Bishop Mariann wrote: “In collaboration with our neighboring dioceses, we are working on guidelines for a phased reopening of our churches, along with a check-list of measures for each congregation to complete before being granted permission to resume public worship or face-to-face meetings. Such measures will include sanitation/cleaning policies, plans for physical distancing, strategies for public gatherings under the proposed number of people allowed.
Given our geography and diverse populations, the process of re-opening may not be uniform across the diocese, and officials have warned that we must also be prepared for re-closures in the future. I will have more specific information to share within the next two weeks, and I ask you to begin thinking of how your congregation can start preparing now for limited worship and face-to-face meetings.”
While we live with the uncertainty of when, we can trust that the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is working to provide us with guidelines that will allow us to resume gathering in our spaces as a community as safely as possible.
Covid-19 as made visible some of the great disparities that exist in our culture: access to medical care (PG County!!!), access to healthy food, people who have to GO to work vs people who can work from home…so many more. (Not to mention the new appreciation we have for educators and child care providers!) There are so many people whose lives were already fragile with uncertainty; so many people pushed further to the margins by the Corona Virus crisis.
As some degree of certainty eases back into our lives, will we allow our blindness/numbness to socio-economic disparity to return as well? Much of Jesus’ ministry was centered on addressing the injustices of the religious/governing bodies of his day. Jesus died because he believed (and taught and lived) that all people are worthy of God’s love and mercy.
Of this we can be certain: the God who created us loves us! As Christians, following Jesus means sharing this love. We actually promise to do so – with God’s help! Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? (BCP293) Has your experience of the Covid-19 crisis changed the way you look at life? What you take for granted? How you cope with uncertainty? As we explore our new normal at St. John’s, how might we expand or efforts to reduce socio-economic disparity and its inherent uncertainties for our neighbors? We are all in this life together – our wellbeing is inextricably tied up with the wellbeing of others. I am certain.
Sermon from May 17, 2020, Pastor Sarah Odderstol.