It’s Gonna Be Great!
They surrounded me like bees;
they blazed like a fire of thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
Life feels different this week, at least to me. The sun came out which is a huge boon for me (though I’ve been reminded that others prefer cool and gray weather). I got great news about the school that my family supports—U.S. News & World Report released their annual ranking of all public high schools, and Alliance Ted K. Tajima High School ranked #324 in the nation, #37 in California, and #4 in LAUSD. What a great accomplishment, especially during this time of Coronavirus, which required the staff to get food and internet hotspots to students and their families, switch plans to a virtual commencement ceremony, and now offer grants to families so they can pay student deposits to hold their place in their incoming classes at UCLA, Berkeley, USC, Vanderbilt, and other schools. Inspiring proof of how life goes on in spite of new challenges.
But the more persistent feeling this week was confusion due to the many discussions about reopening. Every state, county, and community is looking at when and how to loosen their restrictions to protect each other from the spread of Coronavirus. It feels a little like a swarm of bees, buzzing around us in unpredictable paths, causing a new kind of fear as we consider the risk of allowing for more physical interaction—a risk because the presence of Coronavirus has not gone away because we shut our doors. As I suggested to someone last week, the stay-at-home order is like a dam—the water is still there, we just built a wall to hold it back. So now, how do we open just enough to keep from flooding us out?
I do have to say that Los Angeles County will likely be very conservative, so even if the state of Georgia and even Orange County opens up their beaches, LA County may not. The numbers are still on the rise here; at our current rate in LA County, the number of new cases doubles every 11.9 days, which is lower than Orange County at 19.5 days and the strictest county in California, Santa Clara, which has a doubling rate of 53.6 days. LA’s incidence of Coronavirus is almost twice that of the state in general. The County is expected to issue an updated health order that anticipates some loosening of the restrictions, but that won’t come out for a week or so.
While LA County has not issued a new order, a public health doctor suggested that the next phase will likely not happen for 3-6 months. Even if some opening is allowed, they may recommend:
- online worship should continue and recommended for everyone
- people over 65 or with compromised health conditions would stay at home—so churches need to be proactive about including everyone, online or in the building
- 6-foot distancing between household groups would be maintained in the building, with use of masks and hand sanitizers avoid physical passing of the peace, offering plates, or communion elements
- group singing (choirs or hymn singing) be restricted to soloists or people spaced out (singing spreads the virus more than speaking)
- food would not be served, or only as takeout, as is done now with food pantries.
The Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators (APCE) held a Zoom meeting last week, and at the meeting some suggested that videos and other resources be provided for at-home VBS (Vacation Bible School) family experiences. There is a follow-up Zoom meeting on this tomorrow at 12:30 pm; go to https://apcenet.org/event/what-to-do-about-vbs-part-2/ for more information.
Several presbytery executives have been trying to develop a guide for churches wanting to prepare for responsible reopening. The first guide came from Ken Braddy but it continues to evolve. The best that we have seen comes from the Wisconsin Council of Churches. It takes a 3-phase approach (which the CDC seems to also be developing). Note that there is reference to “Badger Bounce Back”—that is a document from the Wisconsin Department of Health on how that Wisconsin, the “Badger State,” may approach reopening.
At a briefing from the County, one astute church leader suggested that we begin now to find supplies we will likely need, such as hand sanitizer, masks (for when people come without), and cleaning supplies (as heavy cleaning will be needed on a more frequent basis).
And one last suggestion: keep your spirits up. Know that we must be giving God reason to smile as we let the Holy Spirit flow through us with creativity we never knew we had, how overnight we have all been turned into televangelists like we didn’t think we had in us, and we even dared to stumble in our attempts to continue to praise God in this new world. Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City offered their Easter service blooper reel. Just about every technical thing went wrong, in spite of their best efforts to have a wonderful Easter celebration, as articulated by one staff member who kept saying “It’s gonna be great!” as she frantically attempted to upgrade their Zoom account, find the host who was bumped off by Zoom, and tried valiantly to connect their members in the Hallelujah Chorus. They offer the video to all of us in healthy humorous humility.
I also found a New York Times article on songs of hope, reflecting the ways that hospital staff are celebrating healing in their midst with song and dance—a great inspiration! God bless them, and all of you as you spread healing and love to each other.
Even as those bees of uncertainty and confusion surround us, let us remember the assertion from the 118th Psalm, stated at the beginning and end:
O give thanks to the Lord, who is good;
whose steadfast love endures forever!
Giving thanks, from the beginning to the end,