I feel a bit punchy for lack of a better word. Every day and sometimes every hour things change as we move into a new reality of a pandemic world. Trying to find “normal” in a world that changes rapidly probably isn’t going to happen any time soon. Monday, I did receive the good news that the person who may have exposed me to COVID-19 tested negative. That means I am no longer is self isolation.
Today, in Sedgwick County, the thirty day “stay at home” ban took effect. I knew it was coming, but like everything else, it happened quicker than I anticipated. The staff at First United Methodist Church met on Monday and decided then that we would cancel everything through the month of April. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but was made easier when the ban was recommended by the County Commission Monday afternoon, with the ban then signed into effect on Tuesday by the public health officer.
The church is having limited hours and people in the building only by appointment with most of the staff working from home. While religious leaders and employees of religious institutions are exempt and considered essential, I think modeling working at home is important. Our one worship service will continue online and through KAKE TV through the end of April. While the Sedgwick County ban is just through April 25, the state of Kansas executive order of gatherings of no more than 10 has not end date.
As I write this I find grief washing over me. In Myers-Briggs, I am an ENTJ (Extrovert, Thinker, Intuitive, Judger). I can think fast and make decisions fast, although they may not always be good ones! I have learned over the years to slow down and let my intuition have some space. As a thinker, I often have trouble identifying my feelings. In fact if someone asks me how I am thinking I jokingly say, “ask me tomorrow. Today I can tell you how I felt yesterday!”
Working with staff and “thinking” through all of this was not so difficult other than everyone of us stated how hard this was. The uncertainty, the changes, the not knowing what will come next. Just today, I realized how much I grieving the loss of “in-person” worship for Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. On top of that, we had a HUGE 150th kick-off celebration planned for the April 19. This celebration has been postponed as is the Scholarship Sunday on April 26.
I am a participatory preacher. As I am preaching, I look to people’s faces and ask myself….is this making sense? Are we connecting? That doesn’t happen when there is nobody in the sanctuary. I miss people. I miss the greeting time and the hugs and handshakes following worship. I miss the quizzical looks when people are not sure they understand, I miss the laughter, the looks of wonder at a choir anthem or sometimes, the tears when a piece of music is particularly profound.
We will have worship. We will celebrate Easter! I know this is not forever. We are in this together, all of us. I am not the only one saddened or grieving the loss of togetherness. I believe that God will lead us through this time and I know that I, that we are not alone, God is with us.
So I lean into prayer, I walk, I read, I cook, I work a little, I play a little and am learning how to re-organize my time in this season of “stay-at-home” and “social distancing.” Truly, in the midst of grief and sadness and some joy, too, I am living into a deeper faith and “It is Well With My Soul”