This week a year ago was our last week of normal life, although we didn’t fully realize it. I remember hearing that the rector of a church in Washington DC was diagnosed with Covid 19 — the day after he had given communion to several hundred people. But the pandemic still seemed remote. I talked to my friend Diana Butler Bass and she predicted churches would be stopping in-person worship. I laughed at such a preposterous idea.
That was early in the week. As the week went on it felt like a snowball gathering speed as it careened down a mountain. More and more closings were announced. I had lunch with some college friends that Thursday and we all felt a sense of impending doom. I wondered out loud if I should go to the taping of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, which I had tickets to at the Fox that night. Within minutes that question was answered. The show was canceled. That March 12, 2020 lunch is the last time I ate in a restaurant.
By that Thursday afternoon the bishop sent out an email to clergy giving us permission to cancel church services on Sunday. You may remember that St. Dunstan’s was one of the few churches in the diocese that did not cancel. About 60 of us gathered for worship in one service that Sunday, March 15. By that time we knew that this was going to be the last time for us to be physically together for a while; that the bishop would almost certainly announce within a few days that all in person worship was cancelled.
And, of course, he did just that. Easter was in three weeks and Cameron and I talked about how good it would be to have everyone back together then. The idea that we wouldn’t be in church on Easter morning was unthinkable. Little did we know that Coronatide would last a full calendar year and still rage on. The unthinkable has become routine.
This Sunday our service will mark that anniversary, and we’ll reflect on the past year. What have been the significant changes in your life? What have you missed the most? What losses do you grieve? What have you learned you could do without? How has this year shaped your faith? Has God been present or absent? What has surprised you? What has sustained you?
I invite you to reflect on these questions, and if you feel comfortable doing so to share your thoughts with me. I may share some of them in the sermon this week (without names, unless you specify that I can).
And in the Prayers of the People this Sunday I’d like to include the names of those who have died from Covid. We have not had any members of St. Dunstan’s die from this disease, and I pray that we stay that way. But I know some of you have friends and family members who have died. Send me their names and we will include them in the prayers.
It has been a long, difficult year, and we know Coronatide is not over yet. We are still scattered, but we’re still together, too. Thanks be to God.
The service sheet for Compline is attached.