September 6th, 2020
It is a pleasure to be back with you after our brief vacation this August. I hope you enjoyed your time in gardens and cottages, or if you were busy with work, that you got a chance to stop and embrace the sunshine for a few minutes.
I stayed home. Partly because my husband was still working and with the COVID it felt better to remain in place, and partly to do some home renovations. And so, amidst me smearing paint on my cheek and ordering new lights, my email dinged.
“Dear beloved friends and family, we are sorry to announce that our planned wedding ceremony will be postponed for the time being. We look forward to updating you as soon as we can. With love, etc.”
With sadness but no surprise, I sent a quick reply wishing them all the best, and checked the rest of my inbox.
“Dear Guests, we wanted to let you know that in lieu of our larger ceremony, we opted to do a legal courthouse wedding with just the two of us and a judge. We hope to celebrate with you in the future.”
“Hi guys, thanks for wanting to come to my wedding, but with my fiancé being immunocompromised from his liver transplant, we don’t want to put him or anyone at risk.”
And on, and on, these emails went. Weddings, birthdays, graduation ceremonies, ordination ceremonies, all large group gatherings. All with emails about regrets and apologies. We are in uncharted waters.
Here at Rosedale, we also had to talk with folks about their plans. We have had to postpone weddings, or change locations, or do small legal ceremonies with the promise of a big to-do when a vaccine is found. Each wedding had their own concerns, their own frustrations, and ultimately no two weddings made the same decision about what to do. And in a world where we really don’t know if there is a right answer, we sat with the Big Question: Are we doing the right thing? Would it be better to postpone? To do a smaller occasion? To be all outdoors but get it over with? What is the answer here?
What is the answer here? Kristin and I have been thinking about that for, well, months. How do we be the church without the building? How do we be the church for everyone when not everyone has internet or tech savvy, is able to leave their homes, is able to use the phone? How do we, you, me, everyone, be the vision Christ sets before us as the kingdom of Heaven?
I really don’t think there is a single answer that is The Answer here. Jesus offers us guidelines when it all goes wrong, sure, but he also doesn’t offer us the church structure beyond a few prayers and the reminder to build it on a sure foundation. Jesus, for all of his amazing attributes, says nothing about whether we broadcast a service live or record it for later in the afternoon. And he certainly didn’t have to deal with the questions around hand sanitizer and how long air droplets last in a room.
But there is one answer that we can focus on; Gather in Love. Where 2 or 3 are gathered, The Spirit is there. The source of love moves through us, Grace fits between us whether we are inches or feet or a city apart. The Eternal Creator continues to call us together in ways that are imaginative and boundless. As long as we are choosing to gather in love, to proclaim Jesus and live out the kingdom here, the details can change. We can, and will, make mistakes as we navigate these uncharted waters. We will get lost, but we won’t be alone.Whether we are gathered around a campfire this fall, doing communion over the phone, changing our hearty handshakes for heart-filled waves, and singing in our spirits, we are the church. We are doing exactly what Jesus set us out to do, albeit in ways we never thought possible. When we choose to gather in love, we won’t go wrong.Just like how each individual wedding has to make their own decisions over the next year, we must also make our own decision about what works and what doesn’t. Exercising the call to love our neighbours, which means wearing a mask, with the call to seek justice and proclaim Christ, we will be doing just as the ancients did.
After all, if Paul had wifi, he would be doing the exact same thing.Amen.