Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Masks and Making Democracy Safe

My eighty-seven year old mother is headed out to her first medical appointment this afternoon since before the pandemic.  My sister will be taking her--but just to be sure, I called and reminded them both to wear masks.  I suppose I am a bit overprotective, but one can never be too sure, or, in this case, too safe.

I keep a mask in my office--and wear it whenever I step out my own door to talk with a colleague or to use office equipment.  WE have hand sanitizer dispensers strategically placed throughout the church office, and I wash my hands several times over the course of the workday.  I suppose I am a bit overprotective, but one can never be too sure, or in this case, too safe.

When I go to the grocery store, I not only mask, I also wear gloves, which I promptly dispose when I leave the store.  Then I sanitize my hands.  And when I get back home I wash my hands.  I suppose I am a bit overprotective, but one can never be too sure, or, in this case, too safe.

Sometime in the future--maybe even the relatively near future, we may be able to do away with some of these measures.  But for now, we need them to safeguard against the virus.  Do I like doing these things over and over again?  Do I like wearing a mask?  No, not particularly.  Am I a moral superhero for doing them?  No.  I am just doing my part--my,  relatively speaking, very small part.  And like so, so many things in life, that's what it takes, all of us being willing to do our part--no matter how small. In fact, that, ultimately is what democracy is all about, isn't it?  Everybody doing their part, no matter how seemingly insignificant.  Making sure they fill-in census forms, for instance, or casting a ballot.  Writing letters to congress people, raising concerns when they surface.  Reporting for jury duty, and paying your taxes.

I suppose I am a bit overprotective--but I love my mother and sister.   I care a great deal about our staff.  I even care about strangers in the grocery store.  And I most certainly care about our democracy.  That's why I'll do my part. After all, you can't be too sure or too safe.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Changing World, A Changing Church

I have used some of this time to clean up my bookshelves.  It has been an interesting project.  So far I have given away about one hundred of them.  Some to our church library.  Some to members of our church worship team. A large number to The Rookery, our second hand "bookstore".  I suppose some should just be thrown in the recycling bin, but that is something I am constitutionally ill-prepared to do!

One of the things I have noticed as I've been sorting through my very large collection is how many of the "practical" books, those having to do with the "how-to" side of ministry, are sorely out of date.  In a couple of weeks I will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of my ordination.  And for three years before that I was a licensed pastor of two very small churches.  In other words, I have been doing this parish ministry stuff for forty-three years--since 1977!  The world has changed in so, so many ways since 1977.  I can remember the challenge of finding a place to cash a check when I was in my tiny churches in Maine, eighty miles away from my home and bank!  Now, ATMs on every corner and online banking make paper checks almost obsolete.

So here's my point:  the world has changed, and so has the church.  I've had to learn about live-streaming this winter and spring.  Whop would have ever imagined we wouldn't be able to worship in person?  I can't visit sick parishioners in the hospital.  Our meetings are all held on Zoom or on conference calls.  It's a whole new ball game!  (Well, actually, there are no ballgames--not yet!)
Even before the pandemic, the church was faced with a new reality and the need to make changes.  Of course the thirty year old books are obsolete--even those dating back just ten years.

But some books, written years ago, are still on my shelves.  The Interior Castle, by Teresa of Avila.  Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  Selected writings of Dorothy Day.  The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Dubois.  And many, many more.  They are still on the shelves because some things don't change.  How we worship, how we pray, how we provide pastoral care, may change, but why we do such things does not.  For our work is still rooted in the love of God and the love of neighbor.

Anyway, that's some of what I've done with this time of isolation.  Do l
et me know if you'd like a used book or two!

(Photo:  Some of the dozens of books I have given away!)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Who Was That Masked Man?

This morning I had to go to the doctor's office for some lab work ahead of my annual wellness visit. As I got ready to leave the house I made sure I had one of my face masks with me.  (I have been blessed with more than one of them by our very competent Parish Nurse, Linda Convertine.)  Whenever I go to the grocery store, or other public place, I make sure I have one with me, and that I wear it.

I was pleased when I arrived at the doctor's office to see signs and measured markers on the floor asking that all maintain appropriate social distance.  I was also glad to see readily available hand sanitizer, and that staff members had face masks.  The three other patients who were there when I arrived were wearing face masks and keeping their distance.  But then a gentleman arrived who did not have a mask, and I must say I tensed up a bit.  I didn't say anything to him.  I didn't publicly shame him, much less arm wrestle with him, but I was uncomfortable.  Very uncomfortable.  Which brings me to why I wear a face mask myself.

All that I have read indicates that wearing a face mask is really more about the other guy than it is about me.  While a cloth mask like the ones I wear will block a small percentage of the droplets that carry the virus from entering into my system, they will prevent a larger percentage of the same from being expelled into the air.  In both cases it is a relatively small amount, but it will reduce the risk a bit for my neighbor if not so much for me.  Further, it serves as a very visible reminder to practice social distancing and good hand washing.  It says I'm taking all this seriously.

Do I like wearing the mask?  No, I feel like a bank robber!  But I do care about my neighbors.  I do care about my community.  And wearing a mask is one way to tangibly demonstrate that care, for as a Christian that is what I am called to do.  Love my neighbor as I love myself.  And with that in mind, I make the assumption that just as much as I want the world to be as safe as possible (understanding that it is never perfectly safe) so too does my neighbor.

Monday, May 4, 2020

What Do We Want to Recover?

In the last few days I've noticed that one of our local television stations has changed the name of their team of reporters covering the pandemic.  It used to be Coronavirus Crisis Team--now it is Coronavirus Recovery Team.  They are not the only ones using the term recovery with more frequency.  But what does it mean for us to recover?

I looked it up, and discovered that the word "recovery" comes from the French word recoverer, which means "to get back, or to get again"--but what is it we hope to get back?  And do we want still want all of what we had?

Obviously, those who have contracted the virus want to get back their health.  And most certainly we wish that for anyone who has been so impacted.  But there are things we have learned about health in this pandemic that we would do well to continue practicing, even after it has passed from our midst.  Handwashing, for instance.  Most of us don't normally do enough of it.  Early in the whole ordeal I saw a meme that said, "It took a pandemic to get men to wash their hands."  Ouch!  But based on my experiences in public restrooms, I would suggest there is some truth in that!

Just as obviously, those who have lost jobs or had to close their businesses want to get back to work.  And most certainly we wish that for anyone so impacted.  But the massive unemployment has demonstrated how many holes their are in the so-called safety net.  We don't want that back.  It needs to be mended and fixed.

And there are other things we don't want back.  The pollution that hung over large cities and other places as well, that was greatly reduced because we weren't driving so much.  The way we were increasingly distancing ourselves from one another, and failing to interact with friends and family in meaningful ways.  And the list goes on.  Somethings we just don't want to recover--we just don't want back.  But it will take a concerted effort to avoid doing that--a concerted effort to not just fall into the old ways of doing things.

Somethings we want back--somethings we never lost--but other things we would do well to leave behind!