For three weeks now, or so, we have worshipped online. Our beautiful building has been locked, I have placed a sign on the door offering information and a way to access pastoral care if needed. And when I go in the door to, say, pick up the Paschal Candle for Easter Sunday, there is a hollowness in the place that is disconcerting at best.
Then I log on for Mid-Day prayer and one by one our congregation signs in, waives to say hello and prepares to worship. The faces are familiar now, some 25 or so each weekday, 50 last week for Palm Sunday. Some of the faces are new to Christ Church…one benefit of offering these services. But most are familiar smiling faces that we know well and care about a lot. People we love. We now love the new people just as much; clearly the CCL Way.
The Library in our little house here in Leesburg has been turned into a chapel of sorts. We have moved the painting over the fireplace and replaced it with a beautiful, rather ornate cross. The Paschal Candle stands wedged between the sides of the fire place screen, too tall to light standing up for fear of burning down the place with its short, 8′ ceilings. Prayer books are everywhere as we prepare the services, move from book to book during the services. There is some organized chaos in all of it. The organized one in me is rattled some by the disorganization. The ‘pastor’ in me loves it. It is a sign of spiritual life for me and for the whole congregation.
Our services online are a little chaotic too. But that is no different than on a Sunday morning where we improvise and laugh and the congregation enjoys catching me making a mistake. And doesn’t hesitate to share it with everyone. The organized chaos of Christ Episcopal Church is a given. Looking for perfect worship with the procession going the right way, the candles lit and put out in perfect order? Might want to go somewhere else.
This is how it is online too. I regularly hit the wrong button, like I did after Compline Monday night just signing off without so much as a whisper. The online congregation regularly has to hear me say, ‘hold on, let me see if I can figure this out.’
But it doesn’t rattle anyone. Not only is the assembled congregation used to this at Christ Church but these times have everything and everybody hitting the wrong button.
On Easter Sunday (here comes a Message Preview) I’m going to ask if the Empty Tomb, which meant everything was completely different in the world, can be our symbol of coming out of this terrible crisis. Can we emerge from isolation and fear to a ‘completely different world?’ Can coronavirus be our empty tomb? Can it symbolize a new way and a new world? Can it be the time in our lives when we saw fear—as surely the disciples did upon entering the empty tomb–and emerged even more positive and confident than ever?
Our online community, much like our meeting-in-church-community, is made up of many different kinds of people from many different places and walks in life, who nevertheless have one central reason for existence, one purpose: to love one another, as he loved us. And when he left that tomb, when he changed the world forever and completely, he did so out of love, out of embrace of humanity, not rejection.
Coronavirus is our opportunity to be changed permanently, to embrace humanity, to love. I pray we take advantage of the opportunity presented to us by this terrible crisis. Let it be our empty tomb.
peace and all good