We are back at church and I’m back in the saddle. Please know that we are happy to be back in the church building, but like other worshippers around the world, really, there are restrictions: no singing, no touching; stay six feet away at least, at all times; no shared communion (take your little cup of juice and cracker from the back table before finding a seat in the pew). Most of us are vaccinated, so it’s less of a concern: we’re not likely to accidentally kill each other with Covid. And I am able (needed really ) to preach and preside without a mask so I can be heard…..and not faint from the difficulty of breathing in the mask. I am totally pro-mask and I wear one in most circumstances, particularly indoors, but I find it extraordinarily difficult to function while wearing one. Maybe it’s just my health issues.
We don’t sing, but we hum. We can’t see each other smile, but we can speak warm hellos. We can pray out loud quietly while wearing a mask. Pews get sanitized….That’s the way it is in the waning days (we hope) of this pandemic.
I was very fortunate to join fellow parishioners in getting vaccinated fairly early for Covid-19. I am now ready to return to the pulpit with St. John’s UCC/Evanston in what will be a Covid-19-style distanced service, this time without our beloved organist and her husband. It’s time for them to retire from regular church involvement. It’s a real privilege to get the vaccine, though I realize Pres. Biden wants every American inoculated. I wish that could happen. Resistance to the vaccine is widespread and worrying. It seems we won’t be able to reach full herd immunity because of the fears, prejudices, and wacky ideas of so very many people, many of whom were and are followers of the Orange One.
Now we need to get our little ones vaccinated, hopefully in the fall, so that we can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief. But what worries me right now is that all children are expected to return to school in the fall, vaccination or not, and that means crowded, NOT distanced classrooms and maskless lunchtimes. This is not OK as far as I’m concerned. Children have been afterthoughts and pawns in this pandemic.
I’m watching the Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd. It’s excruciating, heartbreaking, and extremely redundant but careful. I appreciate the way the prosecution is looking at this murder from all angles. And I appreciate that everyone needs a defense, but I’m finding it SO hard to look at and listen to the defense lawyer, and this gets particularly difficult when he suggests that some of the obvious features of this brutal murder were either accidents or not really what we all saw and the experts discerned. I hope this changes police restraint tactics forever. But there’s the harder work of dismantling white supremacy and racism, and that’s a lifetime’s work.
I am now full vaccinated and await the two-week, post-2nd-shot period to end after which I can start to take cautious “risks” of masked and distanced engagement with others. We will need to be cautious about all the variants that are moving into the country and watch the rising infection rate carefully. Just today we heard that the University of Chicago has 50 new cases of Covid that they think came from off-campus fraternity parties. How much suffering and death will it take for us to care for and about one-another?
Money is now driving this pandemic. Economic reopening. Returning to normal. Getting a haircut, a coffee, a meal. Too many people have had “enough” of saving lives, enough of personal sacrifice. I know that many are without incomes, as are we, and many have lost much. I do sympathize. But saving lives is more important than anything. Without saving lives, the economy will still suffer. These have been our worries, not to mention my own co-morbidities that make resumption of normal life virtually impossible. But what is left behind when people rush back into contact in the MIDDLE of a raging pandemic is those people like me, who are not properly factored into the “advice,” being offered for mitigating (not eliminating) risk. It’s almost like a footnote: “Oh, and if you’re vulnerable, stay at home longer.” And those not so vulnerable need to pay attention to how their “health privilege” affects those left behind by them.
But something just as sinister and dangerous has raised its ugly head: the latent and ever-present white supremacy that erupts as racism (as in discrimination, denial of opportunity, and death) is burning through our country. George Floyd, an innocent black man who might have been a little inebriated one day, was murdered by at least three police offers in broad daylight with no crime committed, no warrant for arrest, no rights read….just murdered by a racist white cop with his knee on his neck. And the other cops also held him down until he died, right there. We need a systemic response, a deep and prolonged re-education, change of heart, concerted effort to re-imagine a new and better world that will not tolerate white supremacy any more. Until then, expect protest, and unfortunately the accompanying destruction.
It has been two month since we started “sheltering in place” or “hunkering down” or “quarantining,” or doing “safer at home.” I DO feel safer at home because the information about the disease changes so often as medical experts learn more about it and more new symptoms emerge, including the incredibly troubling Kawasaki-type symptoms in young children. Much of the country watches in horror as states under the Kool-aide spell of the Orange Menace open up in the name of mammon, to attempt to return to normal, even while making safety gestures, such as suggesting or requiring masks, minimal social distancing. Well, there’s FAR more to the transmission than just wearing masks, and far too many selfish Americans are choosing NOT to wear masks while going into large, possibly Covid-laden crowds. They think it’s their right to go out for dinner again. Why not? Well….think of it as attempted murder, because you can’t promise to remain Covid free or not to transmit it to someone who could die from it. It’s called loving your neighbor. Check it out in the Bible. It’s hard enough to love people under normal circumstances but at least we’ve been giving ONE do-able task: those who can stay home must stay home and the rest who are not essential workers need to limit their socializing and go only to work. Pritzker is making some exceptions for outdoor exercise not involving groups and requiring distancing. Two members of my family did that today. It was mostly a success but there are ALWAYS unpredictable “incidences” that bring people a tad too close for safety, for comfort. No matter how hard you try. That’s why it is SO important to try!!!
…in this coronavirus fight. Rump got rid of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is a greatly respected immunologist and who is not in sync with Rump’s ideas about how to handle the response to the virus. Rump wants to get people back to work after 15 days of isolation and let whoever dies just die…the fittest will survive, create herd immunity, and carry on his precious economy and bolster his ego and he thinks, I’m sure, save the human race, which he hates with a passion. We are in trouble, folks. It will be hard to replace Fauci even if he wanted to. According to Rump’s plan, this is just another reason why someone like me is doomed under his plan. But no, I do not plan to be doomed….I hope to God this election goes forward and that this will be our moment to get rid of him.
Yesterday we heard word from our former church that a beloved member–someone we remember fondly as a friend–died from the coronavirus. Just knowing he is no longer with us is sad enough. To think of what this dear family had to endure over the past two weeks is horrifying. This is real. This isn’t pretend. We are in this together, and we must make these small personal “sacrifices” of self-isolation so that others may live.
Does the lid of my Starbucks mocha have the virus on it? How about the bags the food was delivered in today? Is it still on objects I had in my car the other day? How many things should we clean apart from knobs, pens, handles, etc.? Is it everywhere, waiting for a chance to attach itself to us? I’m watching Sky News (From Britain) as their weather globe turns and spins showing temperatures around the world. I can imagine another globe: one that shows the numbers of deaths from Covid-19. It’s incredibly sobering.
From a Facebook (and Wellington) friend, Kryss Chupp:
“A friend of mine from church sent this from an unknown source. I thought we could all use this hopeful reminder. When I shared it with my colleagues from Christian Peacemaker Teams, people added more things to the list.
Seems like a good practice…”
Conversations will not be cancelled.
Relationships will not be cancelled.
Love will not be cancelled.
Songs will not be cancelled.
Reading will not be cancelled.
Self-Care will not be cancelled.
Hope will not be cancelled.
Compassion and Kindness will not be cancelled.
Gratitude will not be cancelled.
Faith will not be cancelled.
Determination will not be cancelled.
Smiles will not be cancelled.
We’re now all on “shelter in place” as the Covid-19 virus spreads more rapidly though our city. Chicago still has the occasional tissues on the grocery store shelf, but not toilet paper. No paper towels to be found, but these are minor inconveniences.
There are so many people who have lost everything short of their lives, but that’s the sacrifice that is necessary so that they, and many others, don’t lose their lives.
As a pastor of a very small church where two of 12 don’t have e-mail or video capability, we won’t be broadcasting on Sunday, but we will check in on other churches on the growing list of life broadcast Sunday services. We are staying in touch by email and phone, still praying caring.