Have you gone stir-crazy from cabin fever yet? If it weren't for Dionne's birthday on Tuesday, March 24, and my sister-in-law Gillian's birthday today, I wouldn't know what day it is. In Conyers (Rockdale County), where I live, we are under a mandatory “shelter in place” order until April 8.
On the last count, from my social distancing, since I'm one of several people with a preexisting condition, this means that I've been working from home for three weeks! Occasionally, I have to remind myself that I'm not stuck at home; instead, I'm SAFE at home.
Like many of you, I've made good use of technology, including texting, email, social media, and hosting meetings via ZOOM. This sudden and unexpected shift to remote work has been a significant adjustment for millions of us—including churches. Not only can we not meet for Sunday morning worship, but we also can’t go into the office during the week to get our regular ministry work done.
Our cultural, social, and economic applecart has overturned, and likely our ministries will never be the same. Perhaps this extensive experience will bring a recalibration for the Church that focuses on discipleship for community engagement and impact that is long overdue. One thing that I do know is that we’re now in a liminal space, time, and experiences between what was and what will be. Thanks to the Coronavirus which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, normal is what was. It is gone and will be for quite some time.
Our Israelite spiritual ancestors faced a liminal space when they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Throughout the books of Exodus and Numbers, we read how God’s chosen people had difficulty with grief and adapting to the new experiences of wilderness. And while it was a long time of uncertainty that tried the patience of the people, including murmuring and complaining that things were not like it used to be, it was a time and place where people met God in a new and powerful way. No matter how they responded, God journeyed along with them: guiding them by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
The wilderness forced our spiritual ancestors to let go of their attachments to the way things used to be. They had to trust God in the midst of uncertainty. Each of us will have to choose how we live in this liminal space. We will need to trust God and love our neighbors by working through the stages of grief. We will need to find ways to occupy our time if we aren't working and the usual sports entertainment is unavailable. But we must realize that despite being physically separated, we must embrace our shared humanity and the shared experience of facing the unknown together.
Here are some questions to ponder during our stay at home wilderness experience.
1. Who Am I checking on or connecting with today?
2. What expectations of "normal" am I letting fo of today?
3. How am I getting outside today?
4. How am I moving my body and getting exercise today?
5. How am I expressing my creativity today?
6. What type of self-care am I practicing today?
The best thing we can all learn during this pandemic is to remain faithful, exercise flexibility, and don't give in to fear. We don’t know what the immediate future holds for us and when things will start to return to normal. But we can stay fluid and roll with changes as they happen. Keep the faith, care for one another and yourselves, and be willing to adapt and learn something new—our churches finding new ways to reach people. If we’re going to be successful, we all need to be ready to change how we do things. And that starts with how we work together. With God's help, we will continue to be the Church and get through this together.
On the Journey,
Raw Spoon is the artist name of Ross Boone. He is completing a project to illustrate the stations of the cross in Mandala form to display at churches on Good Friday. If you would like to learn more about the project click here.