“Because of the virus.” I mulled the phrase, letting it sink in. I was taking a walk in my neighborhood, where it’s strangely quiet while the blossoms peak.
At the supermarket, an intercom voice reminded, “Maintain social distancing.” I give people the eye every time it seems like they come a little too close. I chose self-checkout. It seems like the least amount of contact.
Yesterday, Angel and I paused as we prepared to unload a truckload of donated potatoes to meet sudden needs for food at Centro de Alabanza. We attempted an elbow bump, then the foot greeting. He said, “Just remember, it’s like playing soccer.”
I am exhausted after every day of processing changes and needs in our community. I read news from Europe and New York. I watch what is happening in Pennsylvania, where I live among the highest virus concentrations. I process what it means to love God and love neighbors by practicing social distancing and spiritual solidarity. Every day is a new act. It’s constant mindfulness.
I have been amazed by the resiliency of communities staying connected through technology. I’ve become aware of vulnerabilities in the midst of the economic storm. Disparities of resources become visible when the economy comes to a screeching halt. I’ve been reminded of Elysium, a movie in which the wealthy live on another planet while there is strife for resources on a parched Earth.
In preparation for Sunday, I reminded leaders that in Pennsylvania we are asked to restrict ourselves to groups smaller than 10, and Jesus says we only need to be in groups of two or three for his presence to be there. Meanwhile, I read New York Times reports of how the virus is moving through families, many crammed into small apartments. Social distancing in nuclear family units is privilege.
We will gather differently this Easter in disorientation. It may be closer to the Resurrection’s first days than our regular practice, when the outcome is already known even on Good Friday. We will enter Holy Week with so much unknown, knowing our God is a God of resurrecting power, but wondering what we might lose along the way. These days have felt ominous. Those feelings might take us closer to the days of Christ’s death and resurrection.
I have been pointing our communities toward Pentecost. It seems like the day when the light might come.
Just before the pandemic became real to those of us in North America, I visited the cathedral in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. There were traditional stations of the cross, but along with them were stations of the time from Easter to Pentecost. They were beautiful, a reminder of Christ’s presence in those 40 days as well.
The journey might be difficult, but Pentecost will come. The Comforter will come. In those in-between places, Christ emerges in broken bread, in waiting in prayer, in walking.
Those were intimate times between the first Easter and Pentecost. Small groups tried to find the way when all hope seemed lost, but wasn’t.
We may not be able to physically gather this Easter, but we will be able to say to one another, “Christ is Risen. Christ is Risen Indeed.” We will wait and hope to be empowered by the Spirit and sent out again as we discover life, death and Resurrection in a time of pandemic.
Stephen Kriss is a teacher, writer, pastor and follower of Jesus living in Philadelphia.