[March 23, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new video meditation will be posted on Mondays through May.
Now available: Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry‘s weekly “Habits of Grace” meditations during the #COVID19 outbreak have been built into a new limited-series podcast offering from The Episcopal Church. Simply search “Habits of Grace” in your favorite podcast player, or follow one of the links below to popular apps.
(You can also simply ask your smart device to “Play Habits of Grace Podcast”)
Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/…/habits-of-grace-w…/id1503355070
Hello. This past week I came across two passages, one from the Bible, one a poem. The one in the Bible, I was just reading through parts of Matthew’s gospel and was reading through the Sermon on the Mount and got to chapter seven where Jesus says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
In this time when we are all called to physically distance from each other, physical, not social, but physical isolation for the good of each other. I’m mindful of the words of Jesus when he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Maybe that’s a frame for having to live in a time of physical isolation.
The other thing that I came across was a poem. It was in an email from Thistle Farms, a ministry that many of us know, led by Becca Stevens. It was a poem called Pandemic*. It’s by a poet named Lynn Ungar, who’s also an ordained minister, and in the poem she says:
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has become clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
Have a blessed week. God love you and keep the faith.
*Used with permission of the author.
It is hard to believe that it’s been only a week since I wrote to you announcing that corporate worship gatherings were suspended through March 29 at St. James’ Church and throughout the Diocese of Maryland. It feels like it was a month ago, not one week. So much has happened in one week’s time. Suddenly we are being called to be the Church in a dramatically different world.
Today (Thursday, March 19th) our Bishop announced that through May 16 we will not hold public worship gatherings in the Diocese of Maryland. We are at a critical juncture with coronavirus, and it is important for us to not gather in large groups for the next 2 months. While we cannot gather for corporate worship in our church building, this means we will continue to be the Church in different ways.
Our current circumstance begs the question: what does it mean to be a church? When we can’t use our church building for corporate worship, can we still be a church? When our ability to gather together for worship is taken from us, can we still be a church? When we are unable to receive the Eucharistic sacrament, can we still be a church?
What is the essence of a church? The essence of a church is what happens when 2 or 3 are gathered together in the name of Christ, whether that gathering is in the same room or through a computer screen or over the phone. Jesus comes among us when we gather in his name. That’s when church happens, and in that ‘happening’ we are touched, transformed, loved, lifted up, strengthened, made one – we are the Church.
The Church has continued, unabated, through wars, and plagues, and storms of all kinds, and and will continue, even through coronavirus. OUR church – St. James’ Church – continues. Right now, St. James’ Church continues withCompline online; beginning next week, daily Noonday Prayer online; adult forum online; Sunday worship online; calls from the Rector; parishioners checking in on one another; prayers offered for ourselves and others; prayers offered for the world and our leaders; hymns that we sing out loud and in our hearts; prayers of thanksgiving and joy to our God. Yes indeed, the Church continues, St. James’ Church continues and will do so through coronavirus and beyond, praise be to God.
Information for Sunday worship services at St. James’ through Lent, Holy Week services, and Easter will be forthcoming. For this coming Sunday, March 22, rather than gathering online as the St. James’ community, we will join our Episcopal sisters and brothers of the Diocese of Maryland for worship online at 11 am. Here is the link: Worship Together
Friends, continue to worship in the beauty of holiness, continue caring for one another, continue calling one another, continue to say your prayers – in short, continue to be the Church. Our community and the world need us the Church, especially now in this challenging and difficult time.