By Bonnie G. Rees
Our Lenten observances this year have been compromised by circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed our churches and curtailed our gatherings for Lenten study and reflection. While our Diocese, deaneries and local churches have turned to social media to stay in touch, how has this affected your personal Lenten journey?
As I write this, it is unclear as to whether the closures will extend to Holy Week and even beyond.
Our relatively tranquil lives have been thrown into upheaval. Even obtaining food is problematic – no visiting, no face-to-face meetings, children not being allowed to play with friends. Hoarding and shortages are a way of life. It harkens back to the wartime and epidemics of our parents’ and grandparents’ eras. Certainly, those times were far more dire.
With stores and entertainment venues closed, perhaps it feels more like Sundays used to be before the Lord’s Day Act was rescinded. Are your days filled with worry – and how to keep the children civilized – or is there time for reflection?
Are you making use of the social media connections to keep the Lenten season spiritual? Do you miss the person-to-person interaction – it is quite different than a conversation via FaceTime, or a voice conversation by telephone? Not being able to actually be in a church – how does that affect you? Does a sermon or talk given by podcast or YouTube make you feel the same as “the real thing”? Is God with you when you are sitting at the kitchen table with your computer listening to your rector?
Remember that in the early church, persecution was rife. Christians were in hiding, could rarely gather, risked their lives for their faith. Some had actually heard Jesus or the Apostles; some had not. Yet, they believed – without meeting, without church, without a priest.
Personally, I love to be in the presence of a gathering of faithful people – church services, our ACW Annual Meeting or Synod. I love hearing the voices around me sing praises to the Lord. I need to confess my sins in person and receive the absolution. I sincerely miss celebrating The Great Thanksgiving and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. I miss the Prayers of the People, hearing the names of each person presented for prayer. And I miss The Peace, sharing God’s peace, the hand-shakes, the hugs, the sincerity of people truly wishing well of each other.
With world commerce and travel being what it is, COVID-19 will not be the last epidemic to sweep across our world. Let it be a reminder to us all about what we miss without the personal contact of church. Let us strive to feel God’s presence when we hear the Gospel – in our church or through our TV or computer. Jesus did not have a church. His message, however, is still heard and still received. We may have to live without church for a while longer. Look forward to the day when we can again join each other in person and sing our praises to the Lord. What a joyful day that will be!
Bonnie G. Rees, President
ACW Diocesan Council
(Featured photo: Annika Gordon/Unsplash)