Dear Friends- be you members of my local spiritual communities or anyone else reading this in cyberspace-
Last year, Holy Week took an unexpected turn for me. On Maundy Thursday , I flew to Newfoundland to take care of a family emergency. I spent Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday in Carbonear Hospital with an ailing family member. Easter Sunday we ate the turkey dinner provided to hospital patients and long term care residents, and I read aloud the Easter service and reflection I had left for my congregations to use.
That year, I reassured myself: it’s OK , next year I will have one more chance to do Holy Week with my people before I retire! Little did I know!
This week, Holy Week has taken an unexpected turn for us all. So many of the Holy Week stories take place within community: the Palm Sunday crowd, the busy temple, a dinner party where Jesus is anointed, the Last Supper [a Passover meal , according to the first 3 Gospels ] , foot washing [as told in St John}.
And then of course community breaks down. The forces of empire combine to arrest Jesus and put him through a sham of a trial- as has happened to many since, in many parts of the world, and still happens today. [Ask those who work within human rights and international law!].
One friend betrays him- though the empire could probably have caught up with Jesus, even without a friend letting him down. They had an army . Jesus did not.
Another friend denies knowing him. And we hear of other friends fleeing in fear.
In these pandemic days, we may feel as if we’ve lost our community . We can’t get together in our church buildings. We can’t have Easter dinner with family and friends, except for anyone already living with us. We can’t meet anyone for coffee. We are supposed to stay home except for essentials- and some of us are supposed to stay home all the time and have essentials safely delivered to us.
I know many of you must be finding this time a struggle. Even introverts like me can get a bit lonely with so many weeks in seclusion.
It’s tough when we have to unlearn all our usual ways of connecting and interacting. It’s tough when we don’t know how much longer this will go on for.
And yet, one way we get through this is to find the gift, the blessing in the midst of it all and beyond it all.
The generosity of local businesses and volunteers. The phone calls and emails reminding us that we are remembered. The phone calls, emails , Zooms, and even letters by which we can still connect with absent loved ones.
Last Sunday some 33 of us gathered for worship via Zoom. It’s a learning curve for us all. We especially missed our congregational singing, and the music ministry of our musicians and choir. We’ve got a few technological issues to master- but that’s OK- we are all learning . And we made the effort because we longed to see each other’s faces. That in itself did our hearts good.
And cyberspace had its blessings. A friend of ours from Toronto was able to join us. Also a friend of mine from Dartmouth, and a friend of hers, were with us- and at least one of them is for sure coming back to worship with us for the remainder of Holy Week.
I’ve been posting reflections and prayers on Facebook Live the last 3 nights- and am amazed to see how many have come by to watch them, some of you but also friends from across Canada and overseas. Our ministry is extending outward, far and wide.
This morning, a group of us shared spiritual conversation over Zoom, from St George, St Andrews and Ottawa. That was something we never would have done normally.
Tonight, Maundy Thursday, a friend from Saskatchewan is coming by and sharing some music , as well as her delightful presence- and who knows who else will come along . Tomorrow , we will see who shows up for Good Friday. And we won’t have to worry about the snow and the rain. We can all stay safe and warm.
After Good Friday, I will be pondering- how do we get from Good Friday to Easter? There’s a mystery to that always. The Gospels do not explain it. There’s a gap. A silence.
We will ponder that in-between time on Holy Saturday in my Facebook Live [7 p.m. ADT or you can come back and watch it later). Just look for the Wesley Facebook Page or my Facebook Page [Jane Doull].
And then- somehow – we will take that leap into an Easter Sunday. An Easter Sunday unlike any we have known. A difficult Easter Sunday. Perhaps an anxious and lonely Easter Sunday.
And yet, Easter invites us to ponder what is more than, what is beyond, pandemic.
Stay tuned- and come join us via Zoom on Easter Sunday. If you’re out there in cyberspace, email jvdoull@gmail and I will send you the link.
We will even have communion- just have something that looks like bread and juice handy.
After all , community is a big part of our spiritual being, even if we are physically apart. We are not alone! The Holy One is with us. And truly we are still with each other.
Stay in touch – and I hope to see you soon.
Easter blessings to all