The Next Chapter

I have long imagined that the end of Covid 19 would be something like turning the page in a chapter book, the last page of that chapter disappearing from sight as the new chapter presents itself. What we’ve seen, of course, is that for the time being, at least, our experience is more like the J.B. Phillips New Testament Gospels I own, in which the pages in the middle of the book are mistakenly glued in place upside down. One has to turn the page over right about the moment of resurrection in Luke, flip backwards through the pages to the beginning of the upside down section, finish Luke and begin John, all the while advancing toward the right-side up place in the book you had earlier departed, and which would now be upside down when you arrived there, at about the middle of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus in John 11. At that point you had to turn the book over, skip the upside down section you had just read, and resume reading the remaining upright portion all the way to breakfast on the beach at the end of John.

Come here. Stay back. Resurrection. Disruption. Open the doors. Remain closed. Proceed. Alter course. Enjoy the freedom, but exercise caution. Get together, but without handshakes; we’re happy to see each other, but there are no hugs to prove it. Read a while. Stop. Turn the book over. Flip back through the upside down pages. Read. Flip over. Skip. Read. Breakfast on the beach.But not indoors. Yet.It turns out that turning the page on the pandemic requires about as much patience, persistence, improvisation, and innovation as has been necessary throughout this disheveled year. Our path forward is not altogether clear; our gatherings, indeterminate. For now, this is how the chapter book reads:

1. We will worship in the sanctuary Sundays at 11 by reservation. Masks required; double masking encouraged; physical distancing in place. We will not sing in person . . . Yet -we are assessing that possibility month to month; nor will we share refreshments just yet.

2. Sunday worship will be live streamed for off-site participation at 11 a.m. and re-posted on the church website later that same day.

3. Small groups, including children’s Sunday school, will gather on site beginning Sunday, April 25th. Committees and other groups are also welcome to meet on site. Hybrid (Zoom/in-person) options are available in some instances.

4. Plans for early Sunday morning outdoor worship opportunities are underway.

The Apostle Paul once wrote, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). I think by that he meant at least in part that when we don’t have everything figured out and put in place, and some of the pages are glued in upside down, we have the opportunity to tap into a deeper source of strength and steadiness, what Fulton Sheen called “invisible means of sup-port.” For a year we’ve summoned each other to draw from those deeper sources of our life together with God; and now again! Whatever else the next co-Covid/post-Covid chapter holds, it will hold God, and God will hold us.

Grace and peace.