I’m finding the experience of this pandemic to be paradoxical. I feel deeply restricted. Restricted in the sense that I’m now working mostly from home while parenting, unable to travel to see beloved family, having to change or step away from the ways we used to work, worship, play, recharge. Our family finances have become a lot tighter thanks to the economic impact of the pandemic. There’s a massive amount of fear and grief that comes with all of that.
And yet the paradox comes in the fact that in some ways, we have some freedom and spaciousness that we didn’t perceive before. In that space, I sometimes wonder why it used to feel hard to be fully present to family members. We’ve found some spaciousness to reimagine how we are called to live as a family. Without wanting it, we’ve found the strength or courage or vision to make some changes in how we work, worship, play, recharge. In the midst of the grief and fear there is some silence and some spaciousness in which I’m finding myself able to sit still, meditate, and pray.
The paradox here makes me think of Jesus’ words: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39 & 16:25, Luke 9:24, Mark 8:35, John 12:25) In the midst of loss, devastation, grief, and change, we are promised renewal, resurrection, rediscovery. Jesus does not elaborate on exactly how that happens. But Christian tradition holds that the story we tell about his life, death, and resurrection is a promise for all of us — not just for life after death, but for life in the midst of change, loss, and grief.
This forced liminal space of the pandemic, whether it feels to you today like a tomb or a threshold, has forced our faith communities to discover inner strength and callings we didn’t know we had. The courage to take worship online and discover new ways of being together. Remembering how to make liturgy intimate and personal. Spaciousness, too, to attend to the ways the Holy Spirit has been moving in our city and around the world in response to the murder of George Floyd. I hope we’re also finding in this liminal space the courage to abandon the distractions that would keep us from continuing to listen, learn, and act for racial justice. There, friends — there is both loss and promise. Letting go, submitting to loss of control, and finding God’s vision of Beloved Community calling us back up into a new kind of life.
If that spaciousness for new life resonates with you, we hope you’ll take advantage of the School for Formation’s resources this fall. Our courses are listed below, with two big changes in response to the circumstance of the pandemic:
- All our courses will be entirely digital. Instead of having in-person days, we’ll have more frequent videoconferences for students to interact with instructors and teachers. A big upside here? These courses just got much more accessible to folks in Greater Minnesota who have found our usual locations (Collegeville and Faribault) to be too far to drive. It’s possible that we might discover how to serve all ECMN’s faith communities better in this experiment.
- All our courses are offered without required tuition this fall. We know the pandemic has created the unwanted spaciousness of unemployment and income loss for so many households in Minnesota, and we want to bring our resources within reach. You can choose whether and how much of a donation you may want to make — it’s not required.
You’ve got gifts and skills to offer to God’s mission in ways you haven’t imagined yet. Take a step this fall toward putting those gifts and skills into practice. You won’t regret it.
The Rev. Susan Daughtry
Missioner for Formation