We’ve hit another rough patch in this ongoing global pandemic. Every time we think we’re nearing the end of the worst of it all, a new cruel curve ball is thrown at us. Many of us were jubilant as vaccines with incredible effectiveness were rolled out earlier this year. As soon as we were eligible, we made our appointments, rolled up our sleeves, and weathered the possible side effects of vaccines. We did so for ourselves, for our families, friends, coworkers, and for our neighbors.
But sadly, many of our neighbors did not. Our county’s vaccination rate slowed, not reaching 50% until September 2021. And that low vaccination rate kept the door open for the new Delta variant to spread. Our local hospital has been highlighted on the national news—because of the alarming numbers of COVID-19 patients in its care and the ongoing stress placed on its medical care staff.
I’ve heard from many of you that you’re tired. You’re exhausted from the goal posts continually being moved further away. You miss the community of our faith practices, the hugs and greetings, the laughter, the shared meals. The choir longs to sing again, and we would love to hear congregational singing ring through our sanctuary.
The picture of this sidewalk sign appeared in my Facebook feed this week. It made me smile. Not only because last night my barbacoa taco fell apart as I was trying to eat dinner, but because it was a word I needed to hear, too.
In the midst of all of this uncertainty, as we grieve experiences and people we miss, even as we struggle with resentment or anger, I encourage you to be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come to you. There is no one right way to live through a pandemic.
Each Thursday night vespers includes two readings: one from Mark’s gospel and also a psalm. The Psalms are a gift to us—in it we are given the heights and the depths of human emotions. Nothing is off limits. We hear the rawness of personal pain and tragedy. The psalmist gives voice to despair and loneliness.
I am twisted, I am all bent.
All day long I go about gloomy. (Ps. 38:7)
At times the honesty can take us aback. (Ps. 137:8-9 is a horrific example.) For me it bears witness to the wideness of God’s embrace. There is no emotion we can experience that would make God turn away. The psalmist offers words of soaring praise and joy alongside of the darkness of pain and suffering. It is an unflinching portrayal of human living with no judgement or rejection.
Through all its pages the psalms provide a glimpse of a faith forged in the messiness of life. Faith that doesn’t require a forced optimism or demand we live with false smile on our faces. So give yourself some space...and some grace, too. These days of pandemic may linger, but God’s steadfast love endures forever. (Ps. 136)
Be well. Be kind.
And always be the church where you are.
A native of Illinois, Rev. Nancy Gowler lived for 26 years in the Pacific Northwest. She joined the ministry of First Christian Church in Morehead, KY, in July of 2020.