Our lives are flooded with articles, guidelines, suggestions for strategic withdrawal to stay safe in the midst of a global pandemic, and we are grateful for the gift of linking through multiple online connections with family, friends, congregation, larger community and the world. Above all is The Holy Net. It is amazing how almost no conversation goes unaffected, and how intense the feelings of loyalty, affection and mutual caring are in all exchanges. The five things selected in this roundup are influenced by the concern for the COVID-19 outbreak and the vulnerability of us all.
1. Hymns for handwashing. Seeking a simple measure of 20-second timing, Leann paged through Hymnal: A Worship Book and made a list; at the top was Schubert’s Holy, Holy, Holy as a reverent means of washing the soul while washing the hands. David found himself singing We Shall Overcome, as a song of hope. A writer in the letters section of the Los Angeles Times recommended This Little Light of Mine. The Doxology works, as does Dona Nobis Pacem or Jesus Loves Me. It is your choice of the hymn that speaks to you of trust and hope and sustains scrubbing for 20 seconds.
2. 100 years of Mennonite Central Committee reviewed and relived. The community dinner in support of MCC welcomed executive director Ron Byler, who stirred our hearts to vision, compassion and action for human need and for those vulnerable to crisis. A week later, we are all in solidarity with a threatened world, all in crisis. Our common frailty and susceptibility to life-threatening disease ends our illusions of being safe and at ease. MCC Relief Sale cancellations awaken our awareness that our giving must show significant increase to cover the loss of festival income.
3. Social distancing, the awkward name for keeping a safe distance when meeting, or the call for “hunkering down” on your own turf, evokes resistance from all of us who value touch, prize human closeness, care about reaching out spontaneously to those we meet and for whom we care deeply. Finding a way to not clasp hands, but to lock eyes in affirmation, to not embrace with arms but to include with words of affection and respect. Physical distancing does not mean spiritual distancing, and increased “body space” does not mean a greater emotional or relational space between us. We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
4. Sabbaticals for home-based church. Even a church that meets from house to house can take a sabbatical and stay closely connected by online or land-line linking, and we can do common reading and send responses, or jointly hold one another, and all others up into the loving arms of Jesus, as we say in our liturgy for communal prayers. But we miss each other, the fellowship around the table of the Lord and the common table when we break bread at dinner each Sunday evening.
5. And we talk of primaries. In recovery from the loss of prophetic Elizabeth Warren as a potential leader for our beleaguered country, we retell stories of the wisdom of children: Our two little grandnieces, Claire and Madison, overheard at play…. Claire, age 7: “Well, Maddie, do you know there has never been a woman president?” Maddie, age 4: “Wow, Claire, that doesn’t make any sense.”
David and Leann Augsburger are two semiretired people who co-lead a home-based church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.