No more, No less

No more, No less

“This is weird!” This is one of the descriptions I have heard from friends or read in newspapers in describing the new reality as we live and fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps you have other descriptions but for me it is weird and hard. Many say that one shows who truly they are, the best and the worst, amidst a crisis. This past week, I learned to be a “teacher” to our Taal who is in grade one. It may be easier for others but not for me. It has been hard not to worry for my family and friends in other cities, states or countries. It has been hard not to know some of the challenges our leaders and members around the synod are facing, especially those who are in the most vulnerable groups. It has been hard to set new rhythms and new priorities, as I try to follow advice from astronaut Scott Kelly in his New York Times article on how to survive isolation: follow a schedule but pace yourself, go outside (outer space for him, small garden for me), you need a hobby (or attend to neglected project), keep a journal, take time to connect, and listen to experts (well, we really need this). It has been hard not to know when this would end. Our body and mind need to reset and be refreshed and so with our spirit. Who would we become after this?

Last Sunday, my family joined two online worship services, one for children and one for adults, with two different congregations, instead of my scheduled visit to one of our Synod’s congregations. This is a new way to be church for us nowadays. There are many congregations who did this; check those services that are possibly recorded on the Synod’s website for the list. I thought it would be hard to do online church, after most of my meetings had been in zoom for the days before – but it was life giving. It truly was, despite my desire to be with others physically pray, sing hymns and join together around the table of healing and thanksgiving.  To be “home” while at church could also be truly life giving.

As the Synod staff checked in, we heard and learned about many amazing, innovative, creative, intentional and intense ways our leaders and congregations are trying in keeping the community connected. In fact, some of us may have been more connected now than before as we share our thoughts, theological and spiritual reflections and experiences with one another. This is life giving. Some are reaching out and caring for those who are alone – I even heard one pastor baking and delivering freshly baked cookies for a friend who lives alone. This is life giving. What are the life-giving experiences you have amidst this reality? Who would be the church after this? I ponder the latter question without fear – in fact it is a lifegiving meditation even in the midst of this crisis.

We are already a community before this happened. This is a life-giving gift from God. We are already a relational people, hungry and thirsty for a community. The Lutheran World Federation’s President, Bishop Musa Filibus and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, reminded the communion in their pastoral letter during this pandemic, “not to gather in one place for worship is an expression of compassion and solidarity. It does not diminish our worship but embodies worship in a new way. It doesn’t make us to be less the church, but fully the church. This is the paradox of compassion that comes with the current pandemic of COVID-19.”

We are still church, the body of Christ, no more, no less.

Tita Valeriano
Assistant to the Bishop, Director for Evangelical Mission