Sunday, April 5, 2020

It's Easter Under Coronavirus (And I Feel Fine)

From Toledo, Iowa
For a host of reasons, this blog hasn't been a regular part of my life for about... [checks posts] ...5 years. One reason is that I had a messy breakup of sorts with the church. Coinciding with that was the gradual and inevitable dissolution of intellectual+spiritual friendships from grad school. Those were the folks I did my reading and thinking with, and the fruits of that often made it into writing here. No more thinking buddies, no more writing.

It's all well and good: I started an awesome coffee business in 2015 and most of my creative energy has been focused on that ever since.

And then a global pandemic hit the US last month and just kind of turned the world upside down. This novel coronavirus has forced everyone to reconfigure and drastically change nearly all aspects of our personal and social lives. And now many Christians are entering Holy Week today under a drastically altered lived experience as worshiping communities.

Photo by Erez Attias on Unsplash

I continue to be connected through social media to a good number of professional clergy. For the past 3 weeks, my wife and I have been virtually "attending" the live-streamed services from our former Mennonite congregation in Virginia, Park View Mennonite Church (who I blogged a bit about on Holy Week week 9 years ago). There's been much reflection in any number of live-streamed worship services, church meetings held on Zoom, and reflections on social media about just how much this novel coronavirus is impacting the social life of worshipping communities everywhere.

For instance, congregations in the Church of the Brethren often practice Love Feast on Thursday of Holy Week, a service which includes what is one of the most socially intimate worship practices imaginable: Washing another person's feet and having yours washed in return. That's a Hard No under the cloud of this pandemic.

Many Christians are now reeling under this new reality. But for me, there's been this strange, sad sense of familiarity to this mode of "socially distant church." I've not felt intimately connected to a worshiping community for nearly 8 years. My wife and I try to go to our local congregation when we can but, for reasons I won't go into, that's not our church home. We've done the "virtual church" thing from time to time, but it's not sustainable for us. It seems there's no substitute for real bodies in the Body of Christ.

Compounding this sense of familiarity is the fact that, professionally, I have worked a few jobs over the past 7+ years here in rural Iowa at least partially remote, sometimes completely. The digital tools of communication and collaboration are all well-worn and readily at hand in my toolbox.

I'm running the risk of sounding like an insufferable hipster ("I was socially distant before it was cool"). That's not my intent. In fact, I'm not sure what my intent is. Perhaps it's a lament.

Yes, it is a lament.

My own situation relative to the church has been and continues to make me sad. It used to produce great amounts of anxiety, which I've thankfully worked through. But still sadness. I want to love and serve the Lord Jesus with other people but haven't been able to for quite some time. That's sad.

Now other Christians who do have a regular, ongoing relationship with a congregation are being forced into a situation similar to mine, and I don't wish that one anyone.

So welcome to "socially distant church." It's not great, but it's something. Let's stick together the best we can and do what Christians do: Pray together. And this Easter season, our life together might mostly look and sound like a season of lament.

And that's fine.

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