From King's Cross take the direct train to York.
—Joseph Stroud, “Directions”
(Of This World, © 2009 Copper Canyon Press)
Almost a year ago this month I flew across the country, blissfully boarding a packed airplane before masks and hand sanitizers became necessary in every public space. My plane landed late at night at the Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, where the ever smiling Genny Jenkins was waiting to greet me. During that stay I met many of you in person, listened to your stories and your dreams for this congregation and community. We worshiped together in the sanctuary, and after you voted to call me as your next pastor, we shared a wonderfully traditional potluck in the fellowship hall. That Sunday afternoon I drove back to Lexington, got back on another crowded plane, and headed back to the Northwest to prepare for my move to Kentucky.
For many of you that’s the last time we saw one another face to face. The story of 2020 unfolded unlike anything we might have imagined that February Sunday. So much has changed, and we have too. We’ve learned to be flexible and nimble in our common life together. We’ve extended more grace to others and to ourselves. We’ve learned to laugh when we forget to unmute ourselves on Zoom. We’ve learned prayer, study, and community aren’t limited by the space in which we gather, be it in a building or online. And we’ve discovered just how much our relationships to one another matters to us.
As we enter into another season of Lent which will still be shaped by COVID-19, this time we have the gift of intentionality in our living through the season. Even as some of us begin to receive vaccines, we know we must still practice physical distancing to keep one another safe. I invite you to receive the opportunities we’re creating for Lenten spiritual practices, finding what may speak to you in this time and make it your own.
Joseph Stroud’s poem Directions, in the first half sounds much like simple directions to get to a pub in the north of England and to set out on a walking trail in the Yorkshire region. And then the poem turns, and it suddenly dawns on the reader that this is a walk of memory and imagination, Stroud continues:
You'll walk the freshness
back into your life. This is true. You can do this.
Even now, sitting at your desk, worrying, troubled,
you can gaze across Middlesmoor to Ramsgill,
the copses, the abbeys of slanting light, the fells….
We can do this. Sitting at our desks, worrying or troubled, we can find refreshment and hope in these days. This weaving together of memory, tradition, and spiritual imagination is not some weak substitute for worship and community, it is another way of being in a faithful community together, as we make our way, “step by step, into grace.”