I am going to say something that may not be immediately acceptable to everyone. I think that we are a bit too quick to put the pandemic behind us. What I mean by this is that we seem to have rolled right back to "business as usual" and--if we don't pause every once in a while--we are at risk of forgetting what we learned over the past few years.
Did it stink to high heaven? Did we all have harrowing stories of one kind or another? We absolutely did. I have written extensively about my own experience during that time. Like you, I have no interest in going back. I do not miss it at all! However, I think we all learned from it and this impacts our lives right now.
So much of what I have done since that time is because of what I learned about myself--both good and bad--during the plague. In fact, we are all still feeling the effects in how we move in the world. There is a great deal of striving in the air. Everyone seems to be trying so hard with everything they do. The conflicts we are experiencing--personally and internationally--are connected to the world-trauma we went through. This still needs to be acknowledged. We aren't the same people we were...so who are we?
In 2020 at Advent we were in peak pandemic. We had learned new skills and strengths. We had discovered weaknesses we didn't know we had. We were all struggling with restrictions. We were fighting about masking and vaccines. It stank to high heaven. However, we also found ways to work around the restrictions and the disease. We found ways to keep families and communities together. Tremendous effort was put into these things, in fact. Now that we are back together, it makes sense that we want to do what we want. We are gravitating toward individualism after a period of collective action.
Still...we have these skills now. We know how to pull together during difficult times. Before you bring up the Covid-deniers, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, and whatnot, I want you to know that I see them. They are hard to miss. The trauma has made them as well. However, if you are reading this, you probably aren't one of those people. You worked hard to keep things as even as possible. You spent time and effort--mostly thankless--to keep your institutions intact. Good for you! You grew--even in the dark times when you couldn't get off the couch. Now in the chaos of the final days of 2023, it is worth remembering all the good you did.
How does all this have to do with the holidays? Well, I think we felt the distance the most in Advent of 2020. The weather changed so those drive-way parties were more difficult. The darkness made the days shorter as always. Also, we couldn't gather like we used to for sacred events like the Pageant and Christmas Eve. We worked so very hard, though. We made a thing that wasn't ideal but that still brought us together.
I have over-used the picture of the Eliot Church Ukestra playing by the side of the church on Christmas Eve for our outdoor, socially distanced, carol sing. That, actually, was from 2021. In 2020 things were even harder. But we did it, didn't we? Members of the church worked together to save the congregation from extinction. We gave a gift to the future. We proved we could, in fact, do hard things.
So, here are a couple videos. The first is the Christmas pageant! This Sunday, December 17, 2023 we will be indoors as per usual, though it should be mentioned that we have last minute cast changes because of Covid. Every year has the best pageant ever, but first among equals has to be the one below. We embedded it in the rest of a service, but here is the pageant itself...and a bit of a blooper reel before the final hymn.
We also did Christmas Eve! Here it is [below] in all its glory. We would not have done these things if we did not love each other. We would not have done them if we did not love the church. I know that sometimes we like to think of ourselves as above emotions. We consider ourselves as too advanced and mature to have faith in anything. We must have faith in something. This would be hard work for people who didn't care.
That is all for now. I need to run off and write a teeny-tiny reflection for Pageant Sunday this year. Maybe looking at the hard times and what we managed to achieve will help with today's challenges in the darkening world.
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.