As we are coming up on six months since all of our lives were changed by the Covid19 pandemic, it seems appropriate to say something about where we are since the virus has had such a powerful effect on our family lives, our church life, and our societal life.
Most of you probably have vivid recollections of those early weeks, as we struggled to come to terms with what was happening. I remember hearing the news that the virus had been diagnosed in an international passenger at JFK Airport, and thinking that it was just a short train ride away. Instinctively I knew it was already here. It was just a short time later that we cancelled worship, all our in-person activities, and began trying to figure out what to do next.
There was during the early days of the pandemic a sense of urgency and emergency, and in an odd way, a sense of excitement. None of us had ever been challenged like this, and as state and local governments began outlining what we could and couldn’t do, here at Trinity our office administrators set up a clearing house for sharing information, keeping in touch with people and fostering a “we will get through this” attitude. Pastor Bruce offered to stay on with us to help see us through the worst of it, Eric Benkert provided expertise and time so that we could get our worship on You Tube, Thomas Loomis stepped up to provide digitized music and lyrics, with Sue Rutledge’s help our Confirmation classes moved online as did our Sunday School and eventually First Communion classes. Our dedicated disciples kept both Friends Kitchen and our pantry open and serving those in need. We had weeknight and Sunday morning Zoom coffee hours just so that we could maintain some social contact and check on each other. Despite the pandemic, our dedicated members and staff gave us a VBS program that touched lives as far away as Florida, Western Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. Our members and friends continued to support Trinity financially, and some even gave more to help us over the rough patch. Our treasurer, Sharon Gilbert, made certain that we received a Covid relief loan/grant, and we were able to sustain everyone on the payroll.
Now, at the end of six months I sense that everyone is tired, “how long, O Lord,” comes from most of us in some form or other. The sense of emergency is over, replaced with grief over those who have died, frustration that we seem no closer to the end than we were months ago, anxiety that we may still get sick, and impatience with one another as we all try to cope. Mask wearing, even for those of us who know that we must do it, has become one of those little burdens we wish would go away and empty hand sanitizer bottles remind us that we have been doing this for a long time. It is, at best, a difficult time.
However, as I write this, it is just after 11:00 a.m. on September 11th, and I can’t help but being reminded of the difficulty of this day nineteen years ago, and of the many days that followed; of the sacrifice and heroism, the rediscovery of our common humanity, the empathy and caring that we roused for one another, the prayer services that lifted up those grieving, and the willingness to do whatever it took to rebuild and heal our nation.
When I see your faces in my mind’s eye, my faith is lifted up. I know we will come through this. I sense your strength and commitment. I know that you have been tested before and have overcome the challenges. We have experienced the faithfulness of God and are confident that while our vision is not clear, God will bring us through this. I know that the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic, our imperfect politics, our discussions about race, and our anxiety about work and school, all tend to make us less patient and less forgiving, but I know looking at the Gospel text for this Sunday (the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost), the parable of the unforgiving servant, that one of the basics of Christian faith is the call to extend forgiveness to one another. Most certainly, during this time, if we can be more lenient with one another’s foibles, less inclined to speaking out of anger, a little less likely to react with disdain, and more likely to forgive, we will be doing the work of Christ with those gathered around us.
It is my prayer for each and all of us that during these days, with so much happening, and so much at stake, that you experience the presence and the blessing of Jesus Christ in your life. I pray that you will be buoyed up by those around you, by a life of prayer, and continued commitment to doing what you can to focus your energy on building up others. I hope that you experience the forgiveness of others and know the joy of forgiving those who have wronged you. In all of this, I hope you have discovered that the love of Jesus Christ abounds; that as St. Paul wrote, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. No matter what has happened the Holy Spirit has given us the means to keep going.
As we look to the months ahead, we will continue to be innovative. We will gather in whatever way we can to continue to be the body of Christ in the world; to be a community of faith and service. Sunday School begins this weekend, Confirmation will start in October, and we will be offering Bible Study as well as other studies and online discussion groups. We will continue to be the church. We will hold our outdoor service until it becomes too cold and then we will think of something else. You Tube worship will continue, and we’re already exploring what Christmas worship will look like. We may find ourselves doing both indoor and outdoor worship, holding our candles and singing in the cold to light the way and welcome the Christ child.
Take heart my fellow disciples, God is still with us, Jesus still loves us, the Holy Spirit continues to guide us. In the months ahead, let us be there for one another as our Lord Jesus is for us. May God bless you as we enter the Autumn season and may words of praise and thanksgiving be on our lips.
Yours in Christ,