Category Archives: Spiritual musings

Fallow

Fallow   –by Jinny Batterson

Farmhouse in November snow, 2018

My sister’s farm lies fallow,
After an unseasonable frost
Killed off much of the late-
Season garden.

My sister’s body lies fallow
Beneath the rose bushes
She planted when she gave
The farm its name–
“White Rose”–in memory of
The father whose memory fogged
Before he could return to farming.

A fallow North Carolina morning. Foggy.
A looming work assignment
Helped chase me outdoors to unfog
My thoughts before confinement.

As the fog lifted, it gently coaxed out
Memories of a sister
Who tirelessly worked to
Improve the soil and to create
A community that, in due season,
Will birth something new.

Humble Imaginations

Humble Imaginations  —by Jinny Batterson

The times we are living through can seem overwhelming—a global pandemic that shows little signs of abating, severe economic dislocations, increases in toxic partisanship, demagoguery, distorted nationalism, militarism. It can sometimes be hard to imagine a better world, a world with more peace, more justice, more compassion. 

Current circumstances send me more and more often to prayer and to renewed study of parts of the Christian tradition in which I was raised. A verse that has long both heartened and puzzled me talks of  “scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” When I’m in an especially spiteful mood, I imagine the proud being swept aside like fallen leaves during autumn’s first cold storms. 

Until I recently looked it up, I’d  forgotten this verse’s context. It’s part of a prayer attributed to Mary, the future mother of Jesus, on visiting her cousin Elizabeth when both women are pregnant, as recorded in the gospel of Luke. Often labeled The Magnificat, the passage goes like this (Revised Standard version, Luke, verses 1:46-1:53): 

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.”

It’s not clear exactly whom Mary considers the proud or what they might have imagined in their hearts. In Palestine at the time of Luke’s Gospel, there were plenty of candidates. 

For much of my life, people have told me I have a vivid imagination. Whatever may be happening “out there” can fade in comparison with what’s going on in my thoughts, prayers,  and feelings. Some have called me naive, a bookworm, a dreamer, among other less charitable labels. My readings about imagination have also included a more contemporary rendering by essayist and retired Unitarian-Universalist minister Robert Fulghum: 

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge; that myth is more potent than history. I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts; that hope always triumphs over experience; that laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe love is stronger than death.”

I like to think that the imagination Fulghum talks about is different from the imagination in the hearts of the proud. In these fraught and fractured times, we need more humble imaginations. We need to recognize that no earthly power, however brave, wise, or fierce, can solve all our problems. It can be so tempting to believe someone has “the answer.”  It can require spiritual discipline to acknowledge the incompleteness of anyone’s “solutions,” to value the questionings and different views of others.  

Proud imaginations can be boastful, full of hyperbole and puffery. Humble imaginations are appropriately modest, without discounting their unique and real gifts. Proud imaginations want to act unilaterally; humble imaginations seek allies. Proud imaginations distrust the understandings of others; humble imaginations know that each of us can contain only partial truths. We need interaction to refine and hone our understanding. 

May we pray for discernment as we thread these challenging times together. May our imaginations be as humble as our loving is expansive.   

Happy New Year, Ruthie

Happy New Year, Ruthie   —by Jinny Batterson

Diminutive giant of the judiciary,
We mourn your passing,
Even as we celebrate
Your life and legacy.

You left us at the
Beginning of the Sabbath,
At the beginning of
Rosh Hashanah,
In Jewish tradition,
The celebration of a
New creation, of a New Year.

Those of us still on
This earthly plane
Will have a lot of work
To do later, but for now,
Grieving, rest, restoration,
Plus a heartfelt wish:
Happy New Year, Ruthie!

 

Valuing Connections, Finding Joy

Valuing Connections, Finding Joy   —by Jinny Batterson

The corona virus pandemic has impacted every nation on earth, few more severely than the United States of America, which has rarely seemed less united. Many of us, especially if we are older, have mostly hunkered down in physical isolation at home (assuming we have a home), venturing out rarely, masked and sanitized, for shopping or medical appointments. It’s easy to feel disconnected.  

An American friend who’s widely traveled and now makes her home in France sent me a link to a lengthy article by Colombian-Canadian anthropologist Wade Davis. His early August 2020 commentary is titled “The Unraveling of America,” and includes this quotation: 

“In a dark season of pestilence, COVID has reduced to tatters the illusion of American exceptionalism. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world.”   (You can read the entire article at https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/political-commentary/covid-19-end-of-american-era-wade-davis-1038206/?fbclid=IwAR1STn3hp2VywUqvGxjPpSUqMItAGBnF7oEPorxsZ1OeUZERQbrTpSHEe78.) 

Some of us Americans are still involved in blaming each other for the mess we currently find ourselves in. Some are foolishly conflating “freedom” with the license to spread harm via a tiny airborne pathogen none of us can see. Some, though, are also remembering glimmers of our underlying interconnectedness, even while physical distancing remains an important tool for reducing the spread of illness, misery, and death. 

Earlier today, I attended this week’s “Friday Action Parking Lot” event at our mostly distanced congregation, a sort of modified “tailgate party.” Since March, Sunday services and most weekday meetings have gone virtual, but we’ve adapted some of our sharing practices to fit our changed circumstances. Before the pandemic, we participated, along with other religious groups and non-profits, in various feeding and affordable housing programs. Hosting an in-person group luncheon is no longer practical, but food still needs to be provided. Lengthy in-person visits to affordable housing complexes are not advisable, either, but families whose children may soon continue “virtual” schooling in apartments lacking air conditioning could really use donated portable fans. Each week a virtual call goes out via email for items especially needed—this week, in addition to fans, there was a premium on face masks and reusable grocery bags.

If few in our congregation are among the wealthiest, few are destitute, either.  It’s important to maintain connections with others who may be economically challenged at the moment, for a whole host of reasons. One of the strongest is that we are all inevitably interconnected, so generosity helps maintain health and brings joy. 

Recently I picked up some books ordered online from my favorite local bookshop, which now has “book take-out.” As I’d ordered a different book by a favorite author, another book he’d co-authored came up as a possible selection: The Book of Joy. The title was especially appealing. Once I got my treasures home, I found the book jacket cover of two famous octogenarians broadly smiling at each other worth the price of the book all by itself. Created from notes and insights garnered during an in-person 2015 meeting between Desmond Tutu, retired Archbishop of South Africa and  convener of that country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Tensin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy chronicles some of these two Nobel Peace Laureates struggles along the way to developing abiding senses of joy. It examines “eight pillars of joy:” perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and, finally, generosity. 

Tutu speaks from his religious tradition about the importance of generosity: “I’ve sometimes joked and said God doesn’t know very much math, because when you give to others, it should be that you are subtracting from yourself. But in this incredible kind of way … you give and it then seems in fact you are making space for more to be given to you.” 

“And there is a very physical example. The Dead Sea in the Middle East receives fresh water, but it has no outlet, so it doesn’t pass the water out. It receives beautiful water from the rivers, and the water goes dank. I mean, it just goes bad. And that’s why it is the Dead Sea. …And we are made much that way, too. I mean, we receive and we must give. In the end generosity is the best way of becoming more, more, and more joyful.”   

Of Loaves, Fishes, and Miracles

Of Loaves, Fishes, and Miracles   —by Jinny Batterson

One of the earliest Bible stories ever read to me was an account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. I remember thinking how special it was that thousands of people could be fed from only a few loaves of bread and a few fish. My knowledge of Biblical lore is not as deep as I’d like, but I’ve recently revisited Biblical loaves and fishes stories, of which there are at least six (Matthew 14, Matthew 15, Mark 6, Mark 8, Luke 9, John 6). Online sources explain that the miracle of loaves and fishes is one of few mentioned in all four Gospels. In all the stories’ variations, Jesus interacts with his disciples, with a spiritual force to whom he gives thanks, and with large crowds. Literalist interpretations stress how many baskets of leftovers were collected at the end of the meal. More metaphorical explanations of the miracles concentrate on the possibility that it was not Jesus’ direct intervention that multiplied the available food, but his unleashing the generosity of members of the crowds who had enough food to share. 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about loaves and fishes stories, as the global covid-19 pandemic spotlights and sometimes worsens inequities in our access to material resources.  I’ve been reading the words of former Congressman John Lewis, a champion of principled action and societal equity. I’ve been marveling at the life of this man who was so often told that there was not enough, that HE was not enough, but persevered to blaze a path of non-violent protest and public service. I’ve been thinking, too, about a woman colleague from a couple of generations ago and the lessons she imparted to her daughter.

I’ll call my former colleague Susan. Susan was a single mother. She’d struggled hard to provide a decent living for herself and her daughter. Susan never talked about the child’s father. I never asked. They lived in a very conservative neighborhood. Despite disapproving looks and hurtful comments, Susan insisted on taking her daughter to church and to Sunday school. Over time, Susan saved up enough to provide a summer trip to Disney World, every young princess’s dream. Planning the trip was almost as fun as the actual event. Once Susan returned to work, she was full of stories about the marvelous rides, about the great service at the hotel where they’d stayed, about how thrilled her daughter had been to meet Mickey Mouse.  

“Do you have any special memory that stands out?” I asked her one day. 

After a pause, she told me, “Actually, it wasn’t a ride itself, but something that happened while we were waiting to get into one of the most popular attractions. It was a hot day, and I decided to spend a little extra money to get my daughter a popsicle—nothing fancy, just one of those water ice contraptions with two sticks. When I next looked at my daughter, she’d broken the popsicle in half and given a piece to the little boy in front of us. I didn’t want to make a scene, so I didn’t say anything. The line moved fast, and we all enjoyed the ride. That night at the hotel, I asked my daughter why she’d done what she did—didn’t she like the popsicle?” 

“It’s not that,” she told me, “but I could see that the little boy was just as hot as I was. I remembered my Bible school lesson—‘Jesus wants us to share.’” 

Amen!    

Taking a Media Sabbath

Taking a Media Sabbath  —by Jinny Batterson

In Judeo-Christian traditions, we are taught to “honor the Sabbath, and keep it holy.” According to the strictest interpretations, that means on every seventh day abstaining from all sorts of work and some of our usual daily activities, taking time instead to focus on spiritual growth. The term is related to a longer interval, a “sabbatical,” a seventh year widely observed in academic settings when professors and researchers take an extended break from their standard duties to pursue alternate studies and to recharge.   

The use of a day of prayer is not limited to Christian or Jewish traditions, though, and can have political overtones. In British-controlled India in 1919, a set of repressive new laws were passed giving the British government authority to arrest anyone suspected of “terrorist activity” and to detain them for up to two years without trial. Other laws simultaneously broadened police powers to conduct searches without warrants and curbed press freedoms. When the most egregious law, commonly called the Rowlatt Act, went into effect, opposition figure Mohandas Gandhi proposed that the entire country observe a hartal, a day of fasting, prayer, and abstention from physical labor, in protest. The response was overwhelming–on April 6, 1919, millions of Indians simply did not go to work, and for twenty-four hours (agonizing hours for the British) India simply ground to a halt. (https://www.sparknotes.com/biography/gandhi/section7/)  After continuing protests, the Rowlatt Act was repealed in 1922. 

As internet use has spread globally, much of the world’s population spends at least some time online. Back in 2017, scientists writing in a journal of neuropsychiatry estimated that perhaps 2% of the adult population suffered from “internet addiction,” compulsively spending more and more online time. (abstract from 10.4172/Neuropsychiatry.1000171,  2017) An article from 2019 (https://www.psycom.net/iadcriteria.html) gave a range of estimated internet addiction from below 1% to nearly 38% of adults. Since the onset of the current global covid-19 pandemic, internet use has spiked further as more of us turn to online communications while confined close to home and admonished to maintain social distancing. 

The internet can be a source of valuable new information, publicizing trends and histories that many of us had been unaware of. For example, as someone with no known enslaved ancestors, I’d been less aware of “Juneteenth” than those whose ancestry was less fortunate. (The holiday initially celebrated the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when formerly enslaved people in Galveston, Texas first got official word that they were now free.) Juneteenth is becoming more widely celebrated throughout the United States, and was recently cited as a reason for the postponement of a political rally by our current President. 

However, the internet can also be used to spread spurious information and to inflame tensions. It provides instantaneous feedback as “algorithms” select more and more of the content they believe we might want to be exposed to. We become “products” who are encouraged to buy more and more goods and services. These days, I know that my use and misuse of the internet can drift close to addictive behavior as I search for clues on how to stay well, relatively safe and somewhat sane in this confusing and highly politicized time. 

So I will use this Sunday, July 19, as my individual “Julyteenth,” my media sabbath, a brief freedom from the endless click bait of internet content providers. I’ll disengage as much as possible from internet browsing or virtual meetings. I’ll also try to cut back on television, streaming services, and the like. I’ll try to focus instead on spiritual growth, with perhaps some limited, more direct, but safe offline methods of reconnecting with neighbors and loved ones. I’ll adapt some advice of poet and writer Maya Angelou, who counseled a generation ago:  

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  …  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” (Maya Angelou, from Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, 1993) 

If my media sabbath refreshes me, I may make it at least a monthly ritual, if not yet every seventh day. My hope is that the spiritual nourishment of a sabbath will better equip me to confront the complex issues of my community, nation, and world. Good Sabbath, friends.    

Debts, Trespasses, Entanglements, Forgiveness

Debts, Trespasses, Entanglements, Forgiveness…    by Jinny Batterson

The household I grew up in spoke several dialects of Protestant religious traditions, so I was alternately exposed to variations of a basic prayer that asked forgiveness either of “debts” or of “trespasses.”  Not being a scholar of ancient languages, I’m not sure whether either term is close to the meaning of whatever word appeared in the earliest Biblical texts. Certainly, in modern times we’ve accreted lots of baggage to the words “debt” and “trespasses” both. 

While our national and global economies reel from the impact of a viral pandemic on systems of commerce and taxation that have relied heavily on buying more and more goods and services on credit, the notion of forgiving debts has a lot of appeal. Debt forgiveness, or “debt relief” as Wikipedia puts it, has a long and checkered history, with so far no great system for honoring both the forgivers and the forgivees of past debts (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_relief).  

According to one Biblical scholar, the notion of “forgiving trespasses” came to prominence in England around 1600 as the enclosure movement gained momentum: “…the enclosure and privatization of formerly open farmland… left the aristocracy richer and commoners with nowhere to grow food. Prosecutions against commoners for trespassing on newly enclosed land … were a frequent activity by the wealthy and a tragedy for the lower classes, many of whom were sent to prison or the gallows.” (https://livingchurch.org/2017/03/14/forgive-us-our-trespasses/)  For the wealthy and prominent of their day, forgiving trespasses was both a worthy act and a way to express some contrition and solidarity with those less fortunate. 

A while ago, a friend sent me another prayer variation that spoke of releasing us from the entanglement of past mistakes. I liked the general tenor of the prayer, invoking at its beginning a “cosmic birther of all radiance and vibration,” rather than the “our Father” that I’d too often visualized as a vindictive older white male. It’s not clear to me where this prayer came from. It seems likely that it’s a “New Age” variation of the more traditional prayer rather than a more-literal translation of an ancient text (https://www.nas.org/blogs/article/o_cosmic_birther_the_lords_prayer_meets_the_american_college_textbook). Still, in my current circumstances, I resonate more easily with entanglements than with either debts or trespasses. 

What seems most pressing to me as our societies struggle to deal with past debts/trespasses/entanglements due to systemic racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, and a host of other “isms,” is that all of us are in need of forgiveness. To ask forgiveness requires that we acknowledge our brokenness and risk trying to do better. Defining forgiveness can be harder than working on debt or trespass or entanglement. It is easier to tick off what forgiveness is not: easy, quick, or painless. Nor does forgiveness mean forgetting the harm or relieving the debtor/trespasser of accountability. One touchstone for me in the process of seeking forgiveness and of forgiving others and myself has become a sequence outlined in Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s 2014 book, The Book of Forgiving: 1) Admitting the wrong and acknowledging the harm; 2) Telling one’s story and witnessing the anguish; 3) Asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness; and 4) Renewing or releasing the relationship. 

May we seek forgiveness, may we forgive, may we do better. 

A Protest Lullaby Project

A Protest Lullaby Project   —by Jinny Batterson

My hope is that many of you can remember a time in your childhood when your mother or a special adult sang you a soothing lullaby.  One of my favorites is “All Through the Night,” originally a Welsh song. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzFqirIGVB4) 

The past couple of months, especially the past couple of weeks, have been unsettling for me. As I write, the annual June anniversary of the use of repressive force in China in 1989 has nearly arrived. Many of us living in the United States of America are witnessing the use of repressive force on our own streets. In the wake of another senseless murder of an unarmed black man, demonstrations have begun and persisted in many American cities.  

At the same time, a global viral pandemic has hit our country hard, uncovering many inequities and rifts that those of us in comfortable circumstances have tried for too long to cover over. Concerns over the spread of the virus have dampened the public activism of many older Americans, those of us most vulnerable to serious illness or death from covid-19.

Many who are wiser than me have counseled prayer. Spending time on our knees is one good way to acknowledge both our pain and our solidarity. Another may be songs, both energetic and uplifting, and, at the close of the day, soothing.

My hope is that younger people in areas under curfew will continue peaceful in-person protests, wearing face coverings and observing as much social distancing as possible. Airing long-festering grievances and concerns, both in public protests and in virtual spaces, is crucial to beginning to address them.  

I suggest that we add to other protest rituals, a few minutes before curfews take effect, a lullaby. Let’s sing to each other, to ourselves, to our President and political leaders of all persuasions. Let’s choose whatever language and idiom most suits. Let’s mouth the words, silently or aloud. If we are not under curfew, let’s practice a lullaby a few minutes before sunset. 

Singing and praying to and for each other will not by themselves solve our problems. Nothing but sustained, concerted actions at many levels will. But a lullaby can offer a brief respite, perhaps open a greater possibility for healing our too-fractured world.   

Hush, my worldmates, peace attend thee, all through the night…

Wandering in the Wilderness of COVID-19

Wandering in the Wilderness of Covid-19 —by Jinny Batterson

When as a child I read Bible stories about the forty years the Hebrews spent wandering in the wilderness after they fled Egypt and before they entered the promised land, I could partly identify, as someone who easily becomes lost. However, even as a child, I thought forty years seemed a very long time. I guess they probably didn’t have an app back then for directions on their cell phones, but couldn’t they ask someone for directions?  Didn’t anybody have a map?

As we humans try to navigate our way through the covid-19 pandemic, I’ve become more appreciative of the Hebrews’ difficulties. It wasn’t just physical distance the Hebrews needed to traverse. Turns out, the space between one “normal” and the next was just as much psychological as physical. The Biblical Book of Numbers tells of the challenges of life in the wilderness. At first, some Hebrews wanted to return to Egypt. There, though enslaved, they at least had plenty of varied food:  “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers… and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Revised Standard Version, Chapter 11, verses 5-6). 

As they neared what they expected to be the promised land, overall leader Moses sent twelve tribal chieftains to assess the area: “Go up into the Negeb yonder, and go up into the hill country, and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak … and whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad… Be of good courage, and bring some of the fruit of the land.” (Chapter 13, verses 17-20). The majority report, ten of the twelve, recommended giving up—the people already in the promised land were too strong. This majority even discounted the land’s good points, saying, in essence, that it was not worth fighting for. A minority of two believed the land was indeed worth trying to possess. They thought the challenges were not insurmountable, given spiritual assistance. It took an entire generation, plus lots of disease and death, before the rest of the Hebrews were persuaded.  

Another example, from the medical field, is closer to modern America in distance and time. It concerns the spread of the use of antiseptics to prevent post-surgical infections. In the nineteenth century, surgical advances made more complex operations possible, but deaths following surgery soared, sometimes taking half of all patients. One British professor of medicine then observed: “A man laid on the operating table in one or our surgical hospitals is exposed to more chance of death than was the English soldier on the field of Waterloo.” 

British surgeon Joseph Lister in 1865 read the results of experiments by French scientist Louis Pasteur, who connected microscopic bacteria with fermentation in foods and wine. Lister wondered whether what caused fermentation in food might also cause infections in wounds. In the late 1860’s, he began experimenting with different procedures and chemicals to reduce the chances of infection. He published the results of his cases in medical journals. Over time, he refined his approaches. Still, it took nearly a generation before antiseptic practices were widely used in hospital surgery wards. 

The wilderness of covid-19 response is disconcerting. Recommendations of currently available best practices can be confusing. As my home state of North Carolina begins the second phase of cautiously reopening its economy, the NC Department of Health and Human Services advises that I’ll still be “safer at home,” but that I’ll have an expanded range of businesses and non-profit groups I may visit. When getting my hair cut at a reduced-occupancy salon or dining in a reduced-occupancy restaurant, I’m advised to “wear, wait, wash”—wear a face covering (except, presumably, while eating), wait at least six feet from other customers, and wash my hands frequently (https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/materials-resources/know-your-ws-wear-wait-wash). 

My guess is that it will be a good while before we’ll reach a post-covid “normal,” though I hope it will take less than forty years. Those of us who survive this pandemic will mourn our losses. In hindsight, we’ll realize that some preventive measures we tried were more effective than others. Some people will remain unenthusiastic about the longer-term changes we will need to make to reduce the threat of future pandemics. 

Still, we may take heart from the experiences of those venturing toward a promised land or safer surgery. The wilderness, however disorienting or longlasting, is neither uniform nor useless. It provides the venue and the time to develop and practice new skills we need. We cannot go back; with good guidance and courage, we can go forward. Please stay as safe and sane as possible, all, while we venture toward our post-covid world!  

 

The Wonders of Dual “Virtual Church”

The Wonders of Dual “Virtual Church”  —by Jinny Batterson

For the past few years, I’ve attended services at two different religious congregations, one a predominantly “white” Unitarian-Universalist group, the other a predominantly “black” African Methodist Episcopal church.  This “dual citizenship” religiously has enriched my spiritual life greatly while posing some practical problems. The physical buildings of the two congregations are several miles apart—a ten-minute commute by car. Both churches have traditionally held their in-person services at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning, so I’ve had to decide each week which service to attend. Sometimes I can “double up” and slip belatedly into the latter part of the AME service, which tends to run a little longer. 

Enter the covid-19 pandemic. This viral scourge has caused lots of changes in our customary ways of ordering our lives, not the least of which has been a temporary set of restrictions on large interpersonal gatherings.  Now both churches hold their Sunday services virtually. If I set up my computer correctly, I can switch instantaneously between the two, catching both sermons and most of the music both places. Most weeks, the recordings of the services stay on the internet for a few days, so if I miss part of a reading or story, I can catch it on Monday or Tuesday.

This past Sunday, the UU sermon centered on learning to slow the pace of our often frenetic lives, to savor time with family, to relearn habits of connecting that may have gotten diminished or lost altogether in our pre-covid frenzy of work/commute/family/physical health activities. The AME service reminded us that God is the ultimate arbiter of our reality, not the latest breaking news, case counts, or polling results. “We shouldn’t discount the very real challenges,” the minister counseled, while he warned us not to focus on them to the exclusion of our connection with the holy.  

The wise words from both sources helped prime me for the week ahead. The music that went with each service was healing, too. In so many ways, I’ll be glad when we have fewer issues related to corona viruses. It will be special to be able to see fellow parishioners face-to-face rather than via computer or smartphone screen. Maybe eventually I’ll have chances again to shake the ministers’ hands. There’s something for me about the experience of physically worshipping together that no virtual environment can fully replace. Still, I don’t want to forget the spiritual gifts and scheduling flexibility that this hiatus from “regular church” has offered me. 

Please stay safe, pray a lot, and remember that the gift of life is just that—a gift, to be used as wisely as we can discern, with as much spiritual help as we can find.