“UGH!!!” was the one-word response someone sent me after I sent out information about the new mitigation measures in parts of Illinois. That one word sums up what I was feeling better than anything I could have written or said.
The twists and turns of 2020 do not seem to be slowing down. Each time a “new normal” seems to be forming, things shift again. The rapid response of spring transitioned to the long haul of summer followed by the continuation and resurgence of fall.
Since mid-March congregations and the presbytery have moved to virtual worship and gatherings; used pool noodles to create physical space in the sanctuary; hosted a car caravan Palm Sunday processional; written a weekly sermon letter to the congregation when they had to temporarily suspend in-person worship (again). It is inspiring to see that the Holy Spirit is filling us with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. We are experimenting and adapting as a presbytery and congregations to a new and unique situation.
Now that it is almost November, how do we shift from reacting and responding to living in a new reality that the pandemic is still going strong? What does the shift to focus on living look like when it is common to have school children learning virtually from home one, two or even five days a week; sporting events have cardboard cutouts instead of people in the stands; and grocery stores still have cleaning supply shortages?
The truth is that there is no textbook to read or playbook to follow, yet as Christians we are reminded in scripture our hope is not based on our having all the answers but our “help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)
This truth is helping me to shift my perspective in a positive way, it is an opportunity to get a view from the balcony and see the bigger picture. I am practicing more grace and more gratitude, both for myself and others. I have returned to running (it might be a combination of walking / running / trying not to pass out, but I am running) which for me is time for prayer and reflection. I am participating in a continuing education program that has been on my “to do” list for over a decade. And am experimenting with new ways of connecting while we are apart (such as through letters like this one and social media posts) even though writing like this does not come naturally to me.
While the many ways that we are adapting will not change the headlines or suddenly defeat a pandemic, we are not without hope. The experiments and adaptations that we are making allow us to embrace the moment and care for each other where we are in October 2020.
It fills me with hope to see that while “UGH!!!” might be our first response, it is not our final answer. We are finding new and creative ways to be together for gatherings, worship, or meetings even if we are separated by 6 feet or 6 miles or more.
Thank you for all the caring and compassionate ways you are worshipping God and serving your neighbors during a time so different from what we were expecting!
You are an inspiration, and you remain in my prayers.
Grace and peace, Bill Rev. William "Bill" McLean, II
Presbyter for Congregational Care Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois