A message from Rev. Jim
Jim’s “Staying Connected” pastoral letter for May 21, 2020
As you know from the recent announcement, the closure of our church building has been extended until Monday, June 22. I am aware that there is significant difference of opinion about this. For some it’s a comforting decision; for others it’s another painful setback.
This extension is especially painful for those feeling the loss of what goes on when we gather in person. The choir comes to mind. For those who love to sing or to share their gift of song, having no choir evokes a real sense of loss. On top of that, church choirs tend to be rather close knit. Ours is no exception. So there’s the loss that comes from not communing through music as well. These are emotional and spiritual losses. As a card-carrying choir member of every church I’ve served or belonged to, I am realizing now how much I am feeling that loss.
And while I’m speaking of losses, for those who enjoy singing, and those who enjoy listening to others sing, it’s become clear to me that even when we return to worship in person, the singing will be very limited for some time until risk of spreading the virus is way down. How long will that be? We don’t know.
The difference between suffering and pain is important to acknowledge. They are not the same. Pain is caused by something that hurts – a skinned knee, a bruised ego, a failed test. There is a loss, but it’s temporary. The knee heals. The ego recovers. The test can usually be taken again in some fashion. Suffering is different. Like pain, it involves a loss, but unlike pain, there is no indication if or when that which was lost will be restored. Given this perspective, all of us are suffering a loss of some form or another due to the inability to gather in person. We may be in different canoes but we’re navigating the same stream, unsure of where it’s leading us.
What’s more, it’s common to suffer and not understand it as such – not to see the cause. When the cause is not acknowledged, the loss can’t be grieved appropriately, in a healing way. Rather, the grief can express itself inappropriately, often as anger toward an innocent other person.
In sum, it seems to me that our common loss isn’t the closure of the church building per se, but rather what happens in or around the building. Every church has channels where grief and anxiety get processed. It may be the worship service, coffee hour, knitting groups, choirs, and the like. When these channels get interrupted or blocked, as now, it’s vital to acknowledge these losses, grieve them, and find other channels.
In my three months with you, I’ve come to know you as creative, courageous and resourceful people. I invite you to join me in acknowledging our particular losses, for only then can we support each other in grieving them and moving forward.
Please do not hesitate to contact me by phone or email for pastoral support – a prayer, a conversation or a laugh.
Rev. Jim’s Office Hours: Wednesdays, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Join by clicking here anytime during that hour. If you prefer to call in by phone, dial 646 558 8656 and enter the meeting ID: 246 611 260.
Yours in Christ-love,