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Presents in the Present

A few more weeks into the COVID19 situation. How are you doing?

I haven’t tried dressing up my cat yet, so I think I’m holding up reasonably well. Some days go better than others, yes. Some days it seems like the tears will never stop falling.

This pretty much sums up our whole world, I think.

Today was a decent day – it is Friday, so that helps – so I decided to risk a little Facebook time. During this sojourn through social media, I ran across an article saying that President Trump plans to override the governors and declare churches “essential” businesses, so that they can again hold in-person services.

It may surprise you, but I’m going to skip the discussions about whether he has the power to change rules that he left up to local governments to make. Also, I won’t go into whether opening churches at this stage of the pandemic is a good thing or not. Other people can and will discuss those things, and I can’t promise I won’t ever discuss them, but I’ve found myself pondering a different side of this issue. To wit: do I want the church to go back?

My faith is still intact, which is to say, as intact as it ever has been. If God’s love were sunlight, some days I’m walking in a bright noonday and somedays I’m crawling through fog so thick I have to feel my way with my hands. I think there’s always some light there, but there are definitely times when I can only catch it out of the corner of my eye. This isn’t a question about whether studying and praising God is worth my time. I still believe that it is. No, what I’m pondering is whether the world needs a return to people sitting in pews on Sundays?

By age six, I was taught the song, like every other kid in Sunday school.

The church is not a building, 
the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a resting place,
the church is the people...

During this time, church has had to lean into this verse. We have services now via zoom or youtube. And you know what? I think it’s been good for us. For a lot of people in our world, sitting in a pew in a big building trying to stand up and sit down at the same time as everyone else doesn’t feel right or good. Maybe you feel like no one can see you in that group of 80 people. Maybe you feel like they see you too well, looking at you funny because you don’t know the Lord’s Prayer by heart or you yawned during the sermon. (Have I done this? Yes. Yes, I have.) I’m not saying we need to abolish these services altogether. For many, they are deeply moving. But think about the possibilities for people in assisted living or dealing with health challenges that limit their mobility being able to participate in zoom church – to actually feel like they’re part of the group. Do we have to choose one format to the exclusion of any other ideas that might have come up?

And maybe the church isn’t the only one that can learn from this time.

As I mentioned to a friend today, many, many things about our current limitations stink. I miss hugging my friends and going out to eat and traveling to new places. Seeing my pictures of Italy makes me cry, thinking about how long it’ll be till I feel safe having that kind of adventure again.

But all the same – there are parts to the new abnormal (credit to Diana Elizabeth Jordan for that one) that I might want us to keep.

Some level of physical distancing, maybe? My friend Kassandra noted on Facebook that she’d like people to stay six feet away from her even after the pandemic is over. She’s not alone. I’ve had people want to hug me when I just met them five minutes ago. I’m usually not good with this. I have a friend who’s really not a hugger. Even when she likes you. It’s just not her thing. A huge percentage of people with autism will agree here. Not for them. Shaking hands during cold and flu season? Maybe we could just consign that ritual to the dustbin of history and find a new way. Bowing? Nodding? Jazz hands? Bringing hats back so that we can tip them to each other? Hmm.

Working from home, at least part of the time? Many companies had to try letting their employees telecommute in order to stay open. It turns out many people make it work. I was able to have someone repair the leak in the roof and still get in my full work day. I’ve heard some in management say they’re pleasantly surprised with how well it’s worked out. No, not all jobs can be done remotely, but let’s say half of everyone currently working from home continued to do so. Imagine the traffic never getting back to its previous gridlock. Think about not putting all the pollutants back into the air. There are some good capitalist reasons for embracing remote work as well. As an employer, consider not needing as much office space. Ponder a reduction in utility bills. Coffee and toilet paper probably don’t make up a huge part of the standard office budget, but I don’t think any company would mind spending less.

Remembering that our behavior will have an effect on others? As with the issue of opening churches, maybe we should spend less time wondering whether we can do something and more time debating whether we should.

That old chestnut about the Chinese word for crisis also meaning opportunity has gotten a lot of airtime lately. Sometimes, though, things become cliches because they’re true. I get lonely a lot and I miss so many things right now. That said, though, we have the opportunity to come out of this a better and stronger world. It would be such a waste to pass that up.

Kimberly sends you love and strength, from her bubble to yours.

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