It occurred to me this week that it has now been six months since “the shut down” started. It has been a difficult six months for us all. Some, of course, have suffered greatly and gravely. Most of us, though, have been plagued by monotony, frustration, and free-floating anxieties while gleaning bits of hope and joy day by day.
It occurred to me this week that perhaps it would be appropriate to have a few comments this morning about where we have been, what we have experienced and where we are going.
Tuesday afternoon, I found myself in a quiet, contemplative mood and I settled into my office to do some reading, seeking some insight into our lives just now. As the afternoon wound down, I slowly walked across the field back home.
I was immersed in a reflective, prayerful frame of mind, feeling the presence of God. I walked a rather circuitous route to the Rectory dodging pond-sized puddles and squishy ground from last weekend’s tropical storm.
I paused a moment, seeking to be fully present and then continued my walk home. Within a few steps I felt a bit of stinging around my ankles. I looked down to discover that I had angered a bunch of ants and now they were attacking my ankle. I brushed off as many as I could and kept walking.
Returning to a sense of prayer, I spent the rest of my trek home battling angry ants while seeking to keep my shoes clean and dry and trying to maintain a quiet peace within my soul.
I thought to myself, “Well, this isn’t 2020 in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.”
In the last few months there have been moments of confusion and moments of cynicism. We are within a season of our lives that that few of us would have imagined. At the risk of dismissing the suffering of others as inconsequential, I must point out that most of us are merely inconvenienced rather than being in crisis.
This morning what I want you to know is how proud I am of St Paul’s. You have handled this crisis with patience and good cheer. You have adapted to online worship. You have kept in contact through virtual fellowship, through phone calls, emails, and letters. There has been no lack of the expressions of Christian love and affection within our parish.
You have continued to engage your faith through online Bible studies. God’s Gardeners have been diligently looking after our grounds while taking every precaution to ensure their health and the health of others.
Two members of our Altar Guild have been working tirelessly these past months making sure our worship and sacraments are offered to God and to God’s faithful. Not once in six months have I shown up at church without the help of others, including members of the altar party and those helping connect each of us virtually.
Perhaps most impressively we have actually added new members to our fold during this time of pandemic.
I am also happy to report that financially the church is healthy. Your generosity has exceeded our expectations. I thank you for it, the Vestry thanks you for it and we ask humbly for your continued support.
The Episcopal Churchwomen of our parish, though being unable to meet in person or engage in their usual Fall activities, are already beginning to discuss how they can have an impact reaching out to children during the Christmas season.
Plans are under way for the opening of the Farmers' Market, though with limited vendors. Our sanctuary still welcomes members of Church of the Holy Name as well as the Brazilian Assembly of God. Our parish hall is the home of a vital AA group.
Many of us may be rather homebound but I want to assure you that St Paul’s remains vibrant, hopeful, relevant and faithful.This is true because of the people of St Paul’s.
Well done. Well done good and faithful servants. I am proud of you and proud to be your pastor. Not even a swarm of ants crawling up my leg can squelch the joy and pride I hold for the faithful people of St Paul’s.
Finally, in light of this moment of taking stock of this dubious milestone, I want to finish this sermon by praying our Collect from this morning once again.
Today’s collect was written many centuries ago, during a time of great upheaval as Rome was falling and being attacked by marauding invaders.
Listen to the words and take hope that these dreary days of COVID will not last forever and even in the midst of crisis and monotony we have reason to hope:
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.