By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle
I am writing this at the end of a week in which the bulk of my time has been spent trying to find creative ways to connect with my congregation through Holy Week and Easter when we are unable to be physically present to one another.
It is an extraordinary time. Right now, no one can say for certain if we will be back to any semblance of ‘normal’ by the time you are reading this. Indeed, will we ever be back to ‘normal’? Perhaps the more important question to ask is: how will our sense of ‘normal’ be transformed by this experience?
At the heart of this experience is a call for physical distancing. The challenge runs counter to our social norms, especially as people of faith. We are nourished by the ways we gather, in worship, in fellowship, and in meals. When we pass the peace in our churches it is often with handshakes and hugs. Holy Communion involves sharing bread and drinking from a common cup. We connect in physical ways to each other. These physical aspects are signs of love for one another.
Confronted with a contagion that preys on the most vulnerable among us, physical distancing becomes an extraordinary act of love. Throughout this time, we have been asked to behave in a counter-intuitive way in order to protect each other. We are asked to act with restraint in regards to our relationships and our engagement with the wider world. We are challenged to trust that there will be enough for our needs, to offer help to those who may be struggling and to ask for help as a kind of mutual sharing for the well-being of the larger community. In the process we are challenged to re-imagine how to be Church!
What does it look like to proclaim the Good News from within our homes? How do we use alternative forms of communication to remind people that God remains lovingly present during this time? What do we do to remind ourselves?
A Facebook friend noted that she was going to read 5 psalms a day through April as a way to ground herself in her faith during this time. How are we nurturing our faith? What resources do we need to learn and perhaps to teach about the importance of sustaining our baptismal commitments at this time?
In what ways are we responding to human need with loving service? How are we providing support for those who have to choose between risking their well-being and paying rent? How do we care for cashiers, health care workers, truck drivers and others who continue to provide vital services that ensure we have what we need?
When we consider those individuals who continue to work now because they really do provide essential services, to what extent are we also recognizing that these individuals deserve to have a living wage? Are we prepared to advocate on behalf of these workers and transform the unjust structures of society that have left too many in poverty for too long?
In what ways has this moment created space for us to consider how we care for God’s creation? As we spend more time at home, using technology to communicate, buying only what we need, enjoying the wonder of the plants in our gardens and around our homes are we also considering how we can better seek to safeguard the integrity of God’s Creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
The Church has always been more than buildings. In what ways is this moment an opportunity, a chance for us to reflect more deeply and be more intentional in our choices? When things return to ‘normal’, how will our sense of ‘normal’ be transformed by this experience? May we remain open to the One who continues to work in and through us now and always.
Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is the Social and Ecological Justice Huron chair.