We are living in interesting, if not frightening, times. The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted all of us, pulling us out of those daily routines that provided a sense of safety, security and normalcy to our lives. The sources for anxiety are many—personal health and the health of our loved ones, economic security, isolation, the loss of stress-relieving activities—and the total effect may be experienced as a crisis wrought by this virus that started in China. Ironically, the Chinese symbol for “Crisis” is a combination of their symbols for “Danger” and “Opportunity”. Perhaps it is a genetic imprint for survival that we tend to focus on the dangers of a crisis, but are there opportunities in the current predicament for us as the community of St. Andrew’s?

We are in the liturgical season of Lent, traditionally a time of reflection. Jesus modeled reflection when, after his baptism, the Spirit called him into the desert where he meditated and was tested (Matthew 4:1-11). Likewise, social distancing is forcing us to retreat from the many activities which otherwise distract us from reflection. Perhaps we can use this time to meditate upon our relationships with God, ourselves and each other. In my anxieties about our situation, I find many of the temptations Jesus faced: Will I be able to get the physical necessities for my family? Will we be safe from the virus? Have I saved enough for retirement to withstand the economic downturn? Jesus also faced these tests about sustenance, physical security, and worldly power. He answered by steadfastly placing his trust in God. Can we do the same? Can we use this time of trial to deepen our faith and strengthen community?

We can’t control this virus, but, as a community, there are things we can do. We are a people of prayer and we can pray. Some of us have experimented with collaborating for evening prayer via speaker phone. Despite some glitches, there was a definite sense of community as we prayed together. We can call or use other electronic media to contact each other, especially those living alone, to see how folks are doing and decrease their isolation. For those who are particularly vulnerable to the virus, those at less risk can bring them groceries and other necessities. Just as the virus is novel, we can find novel ways to connect and build community.

With current precautions in place, the Vestry will be meeting via video- conferencing. While we are not having services and passing collection plates, it will be helpful to mail pledges if you can. Some of our expenses are fixed and don’t know about a virus, so bills will need to be paid. For the immediate future, we will be concentrating on maintaining stability within the parish. But as the year rolls out, we will be exploring the directions the parish wishes to pursue as we reflect on what it means to know Christ and make Christ known in this volatile world in which we live.

As we journey in this time of uncertainty, let us be comforted by the Prayer of St. Brendan:

Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust You to be stronger than
each storm within me. I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand. Tune my spirit
to the music of heaven, and, somehow, make my obedience count for You.  Amen.

Building community even though we are home – by Tom Egnew