Remember 2020? It was March 11, 2020 when all the purported experts instructed people (all over the globe) that we needed “15 days to slow the spread.“ That 15 days turned into a month … and then six weeks … and here we are (a year later) still laboring through various “baby steps” in hopes of recovering some semblance of normalcy.
Does it seem like it’s been a year? From my vantage point, it seems as if a decade or more has gone by! When children look back on this time, I can just hear the question to grandma or grandpa: Granny & Gramps, what was the world like when people didn’t have to wear masks or social distance? Were you really allowed to go outside your house with faces uncovered?!!
Where were you when the world changed forever? I remember exactly where I was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated (sitting in Geometry class). I remember on 9/11, I was taking my morning walk when the radio announcer stated a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.
However, I’m at a loss to remember where I was or what I was doing on March 11, 2020. It was a week since my Beloved’s brother had passed into Eternity. My calendar tells me that Wednesday was a day like any other: there was exercise, work and dining out with friends for dinner. Nothing special to note the day nor to forewarn about the multiple calamities that lay ahead.
My calendar has a notation four days later (the 15th) which says: No church today. Then again, a week later, an identical notation. For the next number of Sundays thereafter, the same words appear … until I just stopped recording what was no longer a remarkable (non)event.
No church today … Not an especially ominous notation (except in hindsight). With my calendar, I keep a record about unusual things. Because our habit (for many years) has been to attend church on Sundays, I’m only prone to note when we haven’t attended. (Just my habit, I guess.)
Life went on, but church didn’t for many of us. I hope I’m not the only one asking, Where Is the Church Robust? Where Is a Robust and Fearless Christian Faith? Where are the elders who have chosen to trust God (rather than men) in order to minister boldly to their congregations during this time when so many people are cowering in fear?!
I received an email from our church today, one of many I’ve received in the last year. It broke my heart. I’ve screen-captured it and included it below. It’s not my place to embarrass this local body of believers so there’s no identification information on the image. Nevertheless, I grieve because I never thought I’d see the day any church (not just mine) would be so bound up by fear!
It’s been so long ago, I can’t remember exactly when our church “re-opened” but when they did, they began (via emails) asking previously regular attendees to reserve seats. Of course, it was all part of the limited capacity, social distancing folderol. The elders explained a host of safety measures they’d instituted in order to make it “less risky” for people to return to worship services.
There was a time (in my memory) when the churches I’m familiar with all talked about the custom of The Empty Chair. In every gathering (small or large), there would be at least one empty chair available. Whether it was a home setting or a large auditorium, the empty chair signified there’s always room for one more and everyone is welcome! It seems to me a congregation that requires registration to reserve seats has abandoned the heart and soul of its empty chair welcome.
After reading the aforementioned email, I wrote the sonnet below. It is an Englark Sonnet (for anyone who cares about poetry). The sonnet is my lament to mark one of the most important things we’ve lost during this past year.
And, I repeat my previous question: Where, oh where, is the Church Robust? More than ever, we need her now.