March 22 marks the one year anniversary. Some anniversaries are celebrated joyfully with cake, cards, and presents. Others are remembered quietly, somberly, with great reverence. This anniversary falls to the latter. March 22, 2020, we did not meet in our sanctuary (God’s house) for worship at The Palms; we started videoing our worship because it was not safe to worship in-person for large groups. It’s been one year.
I think I can say without reservation that it has been one of the most challenging years of my life – professionally and personally. Who would have thought it would go on this long? Who could have anticipated the sacrifices people made! Who could have imagined the death toll?
The year apart from in-person gatherings goes beyond worship and church – It crossed over into personal: No graduation ceremony for Ruthie; no birthday celebrations for me or Wendy; no family reunion and 70th wedding anniversary for my parents; no trip to see my out-of-state kids; no funeral gathering for my uncle Paul and then my father; no 30th anniversary celebration of my ordination. More times than I can count, I have felt deprived, longing to reconnect, and broken this year.
This past year has broken many things – but not your church! For I have also felt inspired by the teamwork from my colleagues on staff and the lay leadership at The Palms. I have been amazed at the faithfulness at our membership giving of time, talent, and treasure. Our mission of sharing God’s unconditional love, justice, and extravagant welcome didn’t stay locked within the sanctuary but went out on the streets. We adjusted our sails and God blessed us with a year full of ministry opportunities.
The lectionary text that first Sunday that worship went to video was Psalm 23 – arguably the best known of all the Hebrew scriptures. We have walked that valley of shadows and death this past year. We have not pitched our tent intending to stay but rather are on a journey THROUGH this valley of deep shadows. We shall continue our journey with no fear. God is with us; God’s provisions endure the worst circumstances. When it will all end, I have no clue. But I do know God is on this sojourn with us until we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.