This virus has turned things upside down. I still have to figure out how to pick up two of my son’s medications that weren’t available last week. I know the folks at Leslie’s Pharmacy will make sure that we get what we need. I bought powdered milk for the first time in decades, and I apologize now for buying every box of mango tea bags at the little Stop & Shop. I used to mix a big box of Carnation powdered milk with a container of Nestlé’s Quik for a batch of hot chocolate mix when my kids were little.
Through all of this coronavirus turmoil, one thing that has risen like cream on the top of my morning cup of coffee is the beautiful love the leaders of the faith communities here have for their people — for all people. The pandemic has put an end to almost all community suppers, and St. Patrick’s Day dinners were postponed. No more pizza night at the Chilmark Church. A couple of faith communities have kept going, doing takeout and drive-through community suppers. Most churches are communicating through online means — either sending out emails, or posting services via Zoom or some other remote method. They’re thinking of ways to stay together at a time when everyone feels so far apart, literally and emotionally.
Island clergy took some time to send their thoughts to me in emails, and they shared some that I’d like to pass along to you.
Rabbi Caryn Broitman sent these words to readers:
This column is titled “Have Faith.” I have been thinking about what it means in a time of such uncertainty to “have faith.” In Judaism, the Hebrew word for “faith” also means “trust.” Faith and Trust together is a way of being in the world. It is the opposite of anxiety, but also the opposite of a false calm. It is the ability to live in this ever-changing world truthfully and in connection to the Source of Life and to each other. Through our meditations of gratitude for each day and our acts of kindness toward each other, we of all faiths can live together in faith. I have been so inspired by the kindnesses to others I have seen all around me — whether an offer of help or the sharing of a word of encouragement. While physical distancing is an act of responsibility for others, we at the Hebrew Center are committed to deepening our connections with our fellows both on the Island and across the globe. We have continued our spiritual lives together through the online study of our sacred texts and singing of our ancient prayers. And we are committed to partnering with others to work for the well-being of all.
The Rev. Hyuk Seonwoo sent this news:
Worship: We sent and will continue to send contemplative worship orders through newsletter, email, regular mail, or door-to-door delivery. We invite church members and community friends to worship “together” at home starting at 10 am on Sundays. Our worship orders include duration of time for each component so that we can end worship almost at the same time. This week, Garrett, our music director, and I recorded hymns and the sermon to help the UMC MV church family members and friends participate in worship more actively.
Ministries and meetings: On March 13, we decided to cancel the remainder of our community suppers (both the Monday suppers at St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown and the Saturday suppers at Trinity in Oak Bluffs) for this winter. On March 18, we made another decision that we will suspend all meetings (including worship) by inside or outside groups for the well-being of both our congregants and community friends. We will revisit this decision on April 6. I am planning to do some small group meetings (including Tai Chi) through Zoom. We are also planning alternative ways of serving community friends in need — still working on it.
How can we stay connected when we’re supposed to keep our distance physically?
As the heightened fears concerning the spread of COVID-19 are affecting so many aspects of our lives, a recent pastoral letter from Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar and members of the New England Conference Cabinet (district superintendents) reminds us that God’s love made manifest in us can and does cast out fear: “We are called, as children of God and people called Methodist, to extend prayerful and pastoral love to all who are suffering from this virus and to those who have tragically lost loved ones. We are also called to extend attentive and prophetic love to any and all who are suffering harm from the ills of a fearful society.” Bishop Devadhar and our superintendents also invite us to “intentionally connect with, pray for, and advocate for those who have taken ill, those who are quarantined, those who have lost loved ones, and those who are being racially targeted, so all may know that we are accompanied by a love that will not let us go.”
Social distancing doesn’t mean to create walls. It is one of the best ways to dig a well together. It is one of the best ways of loving one another in our unique contexts: If you love your neighbors, wash your hands and practice social distancing. If needed, we can drop off food or supplies at the houses of our church family and community friends.
The Rev. Ernest Belisle explained that the Chilmark Community Church is communicating regularly through emails with meditations and prayers. The Rev. Stephen Harding at Grace Church is providing church services via the church’s website, graceepiscopalmv.org. He sent word to parishioners, asking them to call the parish office if they need anything. He ended the letter to them with this: “These are troubling times, but not insurmountable. Let us remember that we are stronger together, and face the future with confidence of God’s love for us and for the world.”
The Rev. Leo Christian, pastor of First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven and Community Baptist Church of Gay Head, sent this news:
We will hold our morning worship service at 10 am on Sundays. If you would like to be a part of it, contact Pastor Christian at 508-221-4231 for information. We also will be continuing our men’s Bible study on Wednesday evening at 7 via Zoom. If anyone is in need of help, please call me and we will assist in any way that we can. God bless.
The Rev. Chip Seadale, pastor of St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown, writes:
Regardless of the anxiety this pandemic is bringing, I know two things: First, the “church” keeps on. We can’t meet in a physical space for now, but our faith, that which has a hold on us, that thing we carry in our hearts, the thing that causes us to thank God when we are grateful and curse God when we suffer, never ends. It’s all part of this thing Cynthia Bourgeault writes about in her (currently my favorite) book, “Mystical Hope” (a good and short read). Anyway, “church” has had all sorts of “iterations” over time (stealthy meetings in houses of the faithful for fear of being found out, you name it), and humanity has been through all sorts of challenges over time, so at least for now, there’s really no reason to think, or expect, the “worst” during this challenge. Instead, when we focus on the fact that we are all interrelated, interconnected, we will find our way. And during these days of lots of information sharing and technology, the “church” might find an opportunity to learn better how to connect with those who are physically remote, but wish to stay connected, and share truth. And therein lies the good news. The real good news. Really good news. Phones, chat rooms, Facetime, Skype, Zoom — all these things are there for us all. And at the risk of putting out there a shameless plug (but one I believe in for sure!), we invite folks on Sunday mornings (watch it in your bathrobes and slippers, people!) to our brief worship on YouTube, at our channel: St Andrew’s Edgartown MA — to hear that good news, to connect, to remember what it is to feel — and be — human. Fully human. Of God. God with us. Stay healthy, everyone — mind, body and spirit — and help others to stay healthy too!
The Rev. Cathlin Baker sent word, writing to her congregants and friends:
“What a turbulent time this is. Each day brings new revelations and requires a new response. Your church leaders and I have been working hard to stay on top of the recommendations regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) coming from the CDC and the State of Massachusetts. We are aware of the weight and privilege of serving and ministering to a wide community of people. Your spiritual, emotional and physical awareness, protection, and health are a priority to us.” And she also shared this poem, “Oh God, I’m Spinning Out: A Prayer,” by the Rev. Dr. Hannah Adams Ingram, chaplain, Franklin College in Franklin, Ind.:
There is so much I do not know
There is so much I cannot see
There is so much I cannot control
In the moments I feel powerless, I will take a deep breath
trusting that I am tasked only with doing my part, not the whole
In the moments I feel unsure, I will take a deep breath
trusting that I am not alone and that together, our wisdom will be richer
In the moments I feel anxious, I will take a deep breath
trusting that there is no depth I can fall out of reach of the Spirit that holds me close
What I do know is that my life and love and worth extend far beyond my work
What I can see is that spring follows every winter and new life pokes out from cold ground
What I can control is my breath and the love I inject into a world so clearly lacking it
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
That poem seems like a good place to end this week’s column. Pray for each other, and if you don’t pray, send love out to all the best way you know how.
If you have news for Have Faith, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.