Musing 5.15.20

This week one of you told me about the visitation for his great grandmother who lived and died in a small town in rural Ohio. Her body was shown on her dining room table. “That was how it was done in those days.” Friends and neighbors brought in food and gathered in the kitchen to eat and talk. Some of the crowd ate and conversed in the dining room. I asked how he reacted to all this at the age of four. Initially he had wondered how his great grandfather who was very tall would fit on the table. Also he concluded that death is part of living and is not frightening. It interested me that his choice of verbs in the present tense indicates he carries that conclusion about death and life into the present day.

Bodies are no longer laid out in dining rooms. Death is not seen as part of living. In most cases death and dying happen out of sight. As a society we deny death. It is not seen as a part of living and is regarded as frightening. Death is an unwelcome visitor which intrudes on our plans. It joins sex, religion, and politics as taboo topics. Despite the life-giving ministry of hospice, it is the elephant in the room. Then Death as Covid-19 enters the room. Now the news reports daily and to-date death tallies. We are very conscious of death. Yet, unlike the person of the opening story, we tend not to see death as part of living and are fearful.

This week I read and re-read “Learning in War-Time” a sermon by C.S. Lewis given in the fall of 1939, at the outbreak of World War II (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949). So much of what he writes of death and war is analogous to death and the pandemic. After all, the war analogy is used for the response to the pandemic. Where he writes of “war,” I’ll substitute “pandemic.” The section of the sermon from which I quote concerns fear. The pandemic does not make death more frequent: 100% of us die and the percentage cannot be increased. So it is ultimately not a question of death or life; it is only a question of which kind of death. Then Lewis writes, “Pandemic puts several deaths earlier; but I hardly suppose that that is what we fear. Certainly when the moment comes, it will make little difference how many years we have behind us.” Most of us will want more time to live. Further, the pandemic does not decrease our chances of dying at peace with God.

“Yet,” Lewis continues, “[pandemic] does do something to death. It forces us to remember it. The only reason why [the prospect of] cancer at sixty or the paralysis at seventy-five do not bother us is that we forget them. [Pandemic] makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right.”

I doubt he is calling war or pandemic a blessing. I hope not. He is calling our awareness of our mortality a blessing. This awareness tells us we are not God. It makes us realize that God made us; we didn’t make God. We are the sheep of God’s pasture. We live in God’s world (Psalm 100). It is an illusion to believe that we, not God, are the center of the universe; that illusion generates so much self-righteousness, arrogance, and destruction. It was that illusion that led to World War II and so much else that degrades people and nature.

It is humbling to admit our mortality. Yet, that admission is our hope. It is an admission that we need God. We can’t do it without God. Then we may place our lives in God’s hands. Then we may let God fill us with Godself. Remember “humble” comes from the word “humus”, good dirt. God’s gifts may grow in our humble dirt.

I am going out on a limb with this speculation. I doubt that no group of Christians was more aware of their mortality than the early Christians. They had much to remind them of it. Paul writes of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword. (Romans 8:35). Were he writing today, I bet he would add “pandemic.” Yet no group was more hopeful. They knew that they were in God’s hands. They were not left to themselves. They were not abandoned. “None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself (sic). If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7-8). What an amazing confession of trust! They knew that Christ had conquered death.

I don’t know which comes first: awareness of mortality or living in God’s hands. Maybe they occur simultaneously. For me, mortal awareness came first. Whatever it is, these realities are the seeds of hope which overcome fear. It is this hope that allows us to address the elephant in the room. Mr. Rogers believed that, if we can name it, we can manage it. Then we live with confidence and freedom and love. In life, in death, in life beyond, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

Musing 5.8.20

About a month ago Susan and I spent an afternoon organizing a corner of the basement.  This household activity usually provokes a discussion (argument) over what should be saved and what should be tossed.  This time we got along famously.  I view this as a sign of my growing maturity.  Inspired by such maturity I ventured this week to go through the hard copy files in my office.  Since I was flying solo, there would no arguments, just uncertainty.  I discovered 1) forgotten items which I wished I hadn’t forgotten; 2) items I had no idea why they were saved, 3) items I no longer needed, and 4) items I would continue to save. 

Both of these organizing events were exercises in sorting the essential from the non-essential. This sorting is a primary topic of our time.  It does provoke discussion, argument, and uncertainty.  What are essential activities?  What are essential gatherings? What are essential jobs?  I know there have always been discussions of essential importance.  I remember a staff member at a previous church asking who would be considered an essential employee in case of a snow emergency.  We decided that if you thought you were essential, you should come in.  I walked through a blizzard to get there.  I wasn’t going to self-identify as non-essential.  I also remember driving through a level 2 emergency to a junior high ballet rehearsal.  The director said it was essential; our daughter said it was; I said it wasn’t.  I was overruled.  Sometimes essential is in the eye of the beholder.

What makes something essential is that it is integral to who we are and how we ought to live. I have seen this time as an opportunity for us to sort out the essential from the non-essential.  In the last two months we have had so much stripped away that we are building our lives from the bottom up.  We start with the question, “Who are we?” Then move to the question, “How ought we to live?”  Then we examine what is essential to answer those questions.  It is possible this is the first time in our lives we have asked those questions.  Consequently, it is possible we have not yet wrestled with what is essential.  

This week I have been reading the Desert Fathers and Mothers.  I rediscovered them in a file I had forgotten I had.  They wrestled with what was essential and non-essential.  I am sure that I’ll write more in subsequent weeks.  Their insights and wisdom are illuminating as we wander in our current desert.  I have been aided in this desert journey by Robert J. Wicks’ Crossing the Desert.  Here are a few thoughts and questions to begin our thinking on essential and non-essential.  Gratitude and humility are essential.  Humility and a sense of entitlement are bad bedfellows.  Where do we spend the most time, energy, emotion, preoccupation, judgment, blame, and resentment?  This may reveal some false essentials.  When do we become moody?   What are our automatic negative interpretations and responses?   These two questions reveal what may fill us.

One more thought on essential and non-essential.  For many in our society it is a short step from having a non-essential job or losing a job to believing one is a non-essential person.  Sorting a basement is peanuts compared to this tragedy.  A blessing of this time is the realization of how many “non-essential” jobs are essential.  Our society is also more acutely aware of persons heretofore considered non-essential: the incarcerated, the poor, the homeless, the elderly, the unemployed.  The most recent news indicates that 15% of our population is unemployed.  Many may consider themselves non-essential people.  That is not true.  We should call that fake news.  Jesus sees all persons as essential; no one is forgotten.  That is the Gospel message. That is the good news.  It is the message his disciples and Church must believe, preach, and live.

I pray that you are safe and well.

Musing 5.1.20

Just some random thoughts during the Covid-19 crisis...

  • More phone calls are answered; fewer go to voicemail. This is particularly true of calls that don’t have caller ID. My speculation is that it may be a call from someone in need.

  • More voicemails are returned. My guess is that people want to connect.

  • When I wear my mask, my phone’s face ID doesn’t recognize me. The upside is that I’ll never forget my password.

  • I still have not completed some projects I thought I would get done during the down time. I realize that lack of time is not why I don’t do some things. I just don’t want to do them.

  • I really look forward to lunch packing days. It is precious to connect over bologna and crackers.

  • It is difficult to focus for any length of time. Is it because things change so much that I believe sustained thought is unproductive?

  • While I am happy that I finally figured out Zoom calls, looking at myself for an entire Zoom call makes me self-conscious and restive.

  • We are indeed more aware of the service sector. Could this be the dawning of the last shall be first, the least shall be the greatest?

  • It is no fun preaching to an empty room. Although people probably think preaching is only one person talking (lecturing), it is a conversation. Facial expressions, body language, verbal responses matter. The congregation contributes as much to the preaching experience as do God and the preacher. I wonder if a sermon is a sermon when there is no one to hear it. That’s kind of a variation of “if a tree fell....”

  • The online worship services tell us the length of each part of the service. How many people check the length of the sermon before they hit, “play”?

  • I have been surprised how long the sermons are and how short the hymns are. I had no idea. Did you?

  • I hope people are listening to the Children’s Moments. They are joyously life-giving.

  • I hope people are not skipping parts of the online worship. If so, they would be missing parts of the Body of Christ and the surprising ways God speaks to them.

  • The metrics of judgment have been disrupted. There is freedom as we search for new metrics. Let’s seek more humane and gracious metrics. A new metric is tolerance. I am less judgmental.

  • Why do people feel obliged to say, “Although I didn’t vote for him,” when they praise Gov. DeWine?

  • BTW, I didn’t vote for him, but I think Gov. DeWine is doing a great job! Gov. DeWine genuinely cares for the people of Ohio.

  • A couple of years ago our Parables class discussed the motivation of the Good Samaritan’s helping the injured traveler. The question the Good Samaritan asked was not, “What will happen to me if I help this person?” The question was, “What will happen to this person if I don’t help him?” Isn’t that the motivation we see in the frontline responders?

  • More than one parent has commented how nice it is not to have rush to soccer, gymnastics, ballet, swimming, etc. “I enjoy these evenings at home with the kids.”

  • God was on to something in creating a Sabbath day. It is a day to realize that we are all in this together, that it is not all dependent on us, that God can be trusted, that creation is delightful, and that life is a joy. Why do I not take advantage of this gift? Why do I avoid it?

  • I miss you. On Mondays, I still think, “I didn’t see so-and-so yesterday. I hope they are okay.”

  • It is painful not to be physically present at moments of illness, death, and grief.

Hope you are safe and well.

God bless you.

Musing 4.24.20

Dear King Avenue Friend,

Soon after the governor’s stay-in-place order in March, a homeless couple, John and Kelly, began sleeping on the church’s porch entrance off the south parking lot.  It is somewhat private and protected from the rain and wind.  It is hard to stay-in-place when you have no place to stay. They were probably in place before I became aware of their presence.  I did not ask them to leave.  I asked them to be respectful of the property, dispose of their trash, and not have guests.  By all appearances that has happened.  Since our building was not in use, they did not interfere with anyone’s coming and going.  During the Covid-19 crisis our awareness of the marginalized, including the homeless, has been heightened.  We hear and read about it.  I thought showing hospitality to Kelly and John was a tangible witness to that awareness.

They have kept to themselves.  Sometimes early in the morning I have seen them taking sponge baths at the west water spigot.  They leave in the morning and return after dark.  On occasion John and I talk of their homeless life.  There are no jobs, begging has dried up, shelter for a couple in social distancing is difficult.  Public places are closed.  John sees staying on the porch as a form of social distancing.  

Late this past Tuesday night there was a disturbance in the parking lot.  On Wednesday I received two communications from neighbors concerning the presence of John and Kelly.  The first was from a couple worried about their warmth; I have never met them.  The temperature had been close to freezing; did they have blankets?  We talked; they asked if it was okay to give the homeless couple a blanket.  Sure.  They brought a comforter and homemade bread. They also offered to give the church some money to help them.  I gave these neighbors my phone number.

The second communication that day was an email which I felt took me and the church to task for letting the homeless couple shelter on the porch.  In short, we were putting the neighborhood at risk both physically and materially. I also gave this neighbor my phone number and gave her permission to call me if there was another disturbance.

First thing Thursday morning I visited John and Kelly and asked them about Tuesday night.  He said that someone had driven through the church parking lot, shined a light, and yelled at them.  I told him that I had received a complaint and would have to ask them to leave if it happened again.  We talked, I gave them some sack lunches we had made for the Open Shelter, and he told me to thank the couple for the comforter and bread.  I reminded John that their staying on the porch was not a permanent solution to their problem.  He said he hoped to find a tent.  Did I know of anyone who had one?

I made some calls to church members.  No luck on a used tent.  Then I decided to call the neighborhood couple who had offered to make a monetary donation through the church.  Within two hours they had slipped a check through the church mail slot.  It more than covered the price of a new tent.  A tent has been ordered.  It should come within a week, and John and Kelly will leave the porch for what they see as a more permanent solution. 

Through the rest of the day Thursday, I exchanged voicemails and increasingly tense emails with the second neighbor.  My defensive attitude contributed in part to the tension.  On Friday we finally connected; I braced.  She began by saying that she wanted to clear the air. Then she asked how she could help.  WE TALKED as neighbors should.  She expressed her concerns; I explained my motives.  I learned that the language of Tuesday night’s disturbance was loud and sexually explicit; it was not as John initially described.  I talked to John about his foul language which justifiably scares our neighbors.  He promised to work on it. 

I go through all of this to share a snap shot of a memorable week in the midst of shutdown. During the crisis we talk about isolation and distancing.  We talk about fear and anxiety.   We don’t physically see our neighbors. Yet I feel like I gained three set of neighbors this week.   Clearly mere proximity doesn’t define neighbors.  I didn’t know any of them before the shutdown.  We’ve become neighbors because we were honest with each other.  We saw need.   We treated each other as people, not stereotypes. Our awareness and sensitivity toward each other has heightened.  We were willing to adjust for the other.  While we have not been able to see each other, we have seen each other better.  In the end what I think each of us saw was our dignity and that of the other person. We have the power to give that.  I hope seeing dignity is part of the new normal.   We all need it.

Stay safe and well.

In Christ,

John Keeny, Senior Pastor

Musing 4.17.20

Dear King Avenue Friend,

I hope you are safe and well.

I write this update of our church’s financial status with an attitude of great appreciation for your generosity at this time of crisis and uncertainty.

As you know, due to the coronavirus pandemic, King Avenue Church cancelled its in-building, in-person events. Committees and small groups are meeting via Zoom and other social media. The only activities in our building are the repair of the bell tower, lunch packing days for the homeless (the number of which we have increased due to need), Bill Meadows’ repair projects, and the filming for our online worship services. The heat has been off for weeks.

It is too early to assess how the stay-at-home order has affected our church finances. We shall have a better picture by the end of April. Overall, giving is down in all forms. The great news is our Vision 20/20 campaign coved the deficit in the approved budget! Offerings received prior to the shutdown will be depleted by early summer. To help with our shortfall in income, King Avenue has applied for one of the small business loans from the federal government. If granted, it would cover payroll for 2.5 months. This loan will become a grant if it is spent on payroll.

We have reduced expenses where we can, such as utilities, hourly payroll, reimbursements, office supplies, parking fees, coffee hours and programs. Other needed expenses such as property, health insurance, and repairs continue. Fortunately we have been able to provide emergency assistance to members who have been effected financially. All staff are working from home and are active in new ways of learning and practicing ministry which will be a benefit in the future. These are extremely anxious times. Businesses are shut, jobs have been lost, and the stock market is down. These factors effect giving to our church. If it is possible for you to keep your pledge and giving current, it is critical that you do so. Your gift is so important to the continued ministry of King Avenue!

In Christ,

John Keeny, Senior Pastor

P.S. This may be a good time to give on line. Go to www.kingave.org and click the green "Give Now" button, or donate while participating in on line church at http://bit.ly/ka-church-online.

Musing 4.9.20

Pastor John’s Musing 4.10.20 In the past several weeks someone asked me, “Will we have Easter this year?” I think that the questioner meant, “Are we having Easter services this year?” They are different questions. The latter question is about what we do. The church is full, the music is thrilling, and the flowers are in bloom and fragrant. We plan meticulously for the services and hope they are well received. Certainly, we yearn for a large attendance. The former question is about what God does. It is about God’s ability to bring new life in spite of what human beings do or don’t do, in spite of what is going on in the world. God has the power to surprise us. God brings life where we least expect to find it. Easter says that, although Jesus was betrayed, killed and buried; God’s powerful love raised him from the dead. Easter is about God’s power, not ours. God is not stopped by us or circumstances around us. God brings new life in spite of what is happening. That is faith.

Now, that it is absolutely clear that we shall not have in-person Easter services, many people are saying it just doesn’t seem right “doing” Easter by ourselves or with only a couple of people. Actually we may be closer to the experience of the first Easter than ever before. As now, it was a time of uncertainty, worry, and fear. People knew the past, but they could not trust the future. And they were not sure whom to trust. They wanted things to be as they were. The belief that God would do something transformative in the world and in lives was rare. The notion that God could break through death and fear and be present was not common.

Then, as now, the resurrection was not experienced with lots of brass in large religious gatherings or buildings of worship. It was experienced quietly by three women at a tomb, by one woman in a garden at dawn, by two travelers at an inn at sunset, by a small group at dinner, by a handful fishing. This is close to how we’ll observe Easter this year, by ourselves, with our household, in front of our laptop, on our porch, in our garden, walking along the river, at a dinner for one or two. This is a wonderful opportunity to realize God brings new life to us in unexpected ways and unexpected places and unexpected times. Now, as then, we’ll learn that God is not limited to our expectations. God has the freedom to surprise us. That is hope.

Yet, then and now, Easter faith proclaims that God’s powerful love is stronger than anything happening to us. God’s love is more powerful than our failures, losses, fears, anxieties, brokenness, illness, and death. Easter happens. God breaks into our world not because of but in spite of. Thank God!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Easter happens every day. God’s gift of new life comes. Make the most of it! That is love.

Be safe and well.
John Keeny

Musing 4.3.20

For years on April Fools’ Day I have played the same practical joke on a staff member, usually the newest one. The joke is this. I leave a hard copy memo on her/his/their desk or send an email. The content of the email is about something that will enhance their particular ministry and a call they must make. For example, if Chris McManus is the mark, I might mention someone wants to give $1000 to fund a special cantata, and he needs to call that person immediately. This year the target would have been Beth Aiello, our director of support services. “Beth, a Mrs. Bair called. She says she has attended KA for several months and would like to volunteer as a greeter every Sunday at 11am, once in person services start up. You must call her by 1pm. Her number is 614-645-3550. She sounds nice. She says she sits in the middle balcony.” Beth will be hooked and eagerly call Mrs. Bair. She will be told that there is no Mrs. Bair at that number. Beth will insist that her pastor told her to call Mrs. Bair at that number. She will then be told that someone is playing a joke on her. She has just called the Columbus Zoo and asked to speak to Mrs. Bear. Get it? Pretty juvenile. You’d be surprised how often people fall for it. I bet one of you tries it next year.

This year I didn’t do it. It just didn’t feel right. April Fools’ Day came and went. No jokes. I don’t recall anyone even mentioning that it was April Fools’ Day. While I don’t expect Anthony Fauci or Deborah Birx to ask the president to call Mrs. Wolfe, it saddens me that humor is missing in action. We just are not sure what humor is appropriate anymore. We are told we are at war, is humor appropriate during war? I thought Bob Hope was funny in all his visits to the troops. It can be done. I think we know we need something to loosen up. How else to explain the popularity of “Tiger King”? We tried to watch it the other night. The demand was so great that we couldn’t access Netflix.

We might not need humor as much as we need test kits, masks, ventilators, physical distancing, and a vaccine, but we need it. We need a laugh. Humor breaks up the hard soil of our solemnity. It relieves the tension. Good humor is not at someone’s expense. It doesn’t belittle or demean. It reminds us of our common humanity and connects us. It points out our fallibility. It allows us to laugh at ourselves and take ourselves less seriously. Humor can save us. It helps us see life in a different way. It can show us the truth in a nanosecond. Humor creates space for vulnerability which creates space for God.

A termite walked into a bar and asked, “Is the bar tender here?”

A horse walked into a bar, and the bartender asked, “Why the long face?”

I should have played that joke on Beth.

Be sure to tell a joke this week. It will do you and others good.

Be safe and well.

John Keeny, Senior Pastor

Musing 3.27.20

During this crisis I have read and heard much talk about our being at war.  There are references to persons on the front line, being in the middle of combat, calls for wartime legislation, exercise of wartime powers, unsung heroes, and the need to rally around this common fight against our common enemy.   All this war imagery has brought to mind William James’ essay “The Moral Equivalent of War” written in the early 1900’s.  I have not heard a reference to this essay by any commentator, and I don’t know why.  So I decided to refer to it.

James was a staunch pacifist who lived through the Civil War, the wars against Native Americans, the Spanish American War, and the lead up to World War I.  He saw war as horrible, violent, and bloody.  He had no illusions about its cruelty.  Like everyone he preferred peace.  At the same time, he acknowledged that war called forth virtues which were admirable and desirable in human beings.  Virtues such as fidelity, loyalty, self-sacrifice, generosity, tenacity, companionship, courage, cohesiveness, inventiveness, and conscience.  War could elevate people to a higher level than peace seemed capable of doing.  James’ wrestles with the proposition that, for all its awfulness, war calls forth more than does peace.  He opines that peace too often makes people “soft” and “lacking in vitality.”  

He wonders if there is a moral equivalent in peace which calls forth the virtues which war does.  One writer draws a direct line from James to the depression era projects, the Peace Corps, VISTA, and AmeriCorps. I believe that the good behavior people find in the COVID-19 crisis is the moral equivalent of war.  It is, indeed, calling forth the best in us.  All of us see sacrifice, heroism, generosity, courage, and cohesiveness.  We are growing in the empathy and compassion which make us fully human.  This is all good.  It’s great.  Part of me wonders if this is why commentators and political leaders are so attracted to this war language.

My thinking on this has led me to believe the Kingdom of God is the moral equivalent of war.  Paul uses martial imagery in Ephesians 6 when he speaks of the armor of God.  Jesus gives us the discipline in the Sermon on the Mount.  His call to ministry sets forth the task, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).  That mission will call forth virtue without the horror and destruction of war. Participation in the Kingdom of God gifts us with that which makes us human - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5). 

From now on, when I hear the talk of our state of war on the news; I am going to think of the Kingdom of God and what it is calling me to do and who it is calling me to be.  I am also going to look for signs of the Kingdom of God in all that is happening.  It is near in the actions of so many people.
  
Thank you for the ways you are demonstrating that the Kingdom of God is near. 
John Keeny

Musing 3.20.20

This week has been as busy as any before the cancellation of events. My plans to observe and experience a sabbath rest have not been realized. I continue to read the psalms daily, but it is hard to focus. I find that I am easily distracted by the news of the virus and speculation of what is next. I feel like I have to keep tuned in so that I don’t miss anything. It is hard to concentrate on anything else, or do anything else. In addition to distraction, I am frustrated by what is not happening and by my lack of technological ability (but I am learning). Finally I am fearful of what might happen. In short, I continue to experience stress and fatigue from the distraction, fear, and frustration. I know I am not alone. Is there a balm in Gilead?

On Thursday I re-watched Mr. Rogers’ 2002 commencement address at Dartmouth College. That was the refreshment I needed. The entire speech is renewing, especially beginning at the ten minute mark. I find that taking his recommended one minute of silence to think about those who have helped me become who I am today was like a cup of cold water. I encourage you to watch the video, take the minute of silence each day, and find yourself in a better place. This is the balm for our spiritual and emotional health.

I pray for your health.

John Keeny, Senior Pastor

 

Musing 3.14.20

As you know by now, we have suspended on-site events at King Avenue until further notice. I don’t know of anyone not experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, and frustration at the uncertainly of this time. We worry about investments, savings, jobs, child care, schools, family and ourselves contracting the virus, and the poor who are most effected. We are accustomed to life being fairly predictable and manageable. We even tend to think the future is in our control. The uncertainty of the last few days vividly reminds us of the precariousness of life and the seeming futility of our plans. It is hard to turn on the TV without hearing a mental health professional address anxiety and stress.

I too worry. I am concerned about my pension, canceling church events, loss of attendance, reduced giving, staff welfare, members’ and loved ones’ health, and the effect on the marginalized and at-risk persons. Our daughter offered to run errands for Susan and me since we are in the high risk age group!

With all that said, I also find this to be a time of opportunities that excite me. This is a time for people to stand in solidarity with each other. I find that egos are put aside for the greater good. The uncertainty of the virus has placed all of us on the same level of humanity. We are more mindful of the welfare of our neighbor and the stranger. It is a time of patience. I am amazed how understanding people are of the failings of themselves and others. With things changing so rapidly we don’t expect ourselves or our neighbors to be perfect. We are more tolerant. I think we laugh more at ourselves and are less angry. We are encouraged to avoid people and keep a social distance. Ironically that distancing is bringing us closer together.

It is a time of opportunity for our church. Because of the crisis we are moving into the world of online worship and the need for online community. We should have done that years ago. This makes it possible for our services to go beyond our walls to snow birds, home bound members, persons considering visiting, and others. In order to stay in contact with our members at this uncertain time I am starting these jottings (maybe a blog). I should have done that years ago. You are concerned about people you won’t be seeing for a while. This is a great opportunity to contact people and ask for their well-being. Let them know you miss them. I am certain the suspension is activity will show us new ways to do and be. Maybe we’ll find we need fewer meetings and more small groups. Maybe we learn the conference and zoom calls are sometimes appropriate.

In the email that was sent Thursday night, we referred to this as a time of Sabbath. All the cancellations leave us with un-busy calendars. We often complain of our busyness. Our calendars are as blank now as they have been in a long time. Our time is pretty free. Most of us will have more control of our time than ever. No sports are on TV! This is a sabbath opportunity to slow down. We can use it to delight in creation, experience solidarity with humanity, develop a hobby, read, do nothing, sleep, spend time with family, visit a neighbor, offer to help a frazzled parent, reflect on our creatureliness, and/or acknowledge our dependence on God. Observance of sabbath rest is an opportunity to realize our humanity.

I hope you’ll make the most of this sabbath opportunity and move from stress to aliveness. This is our chance to become who we have wanted to be.

John Keeny