by | May 19, 2020

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

This last week I kind of hit a wall in the Coronavirus marathon.  (Yes, in case anyone is wondering, dealing with this pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint.)

Even as I begin this new week, I am still fatigued by the prior week.  Nothing bad, and in fact I’m trying to figure out what is tiring me the most.  It could be the fact that for the first time, the meeting schedule approached a pre-pandemic meeting schedule—and Zoom meetings exhaust me!  I don’t know why, but I know that three Zoom meetings in a day is my max.  It could be that I preached for the first time on Zoom, which wasn’t as traumatic as I feared, but still preaching does take time for preparation (more than many in the congregation realize!).

I’m also aware that leadership during this time of great uncertainty is tiring.  We all want to know what is ahead of us, and we would like advance notice so we can prepare for it.  The problem is, we don’t know what is ahead of us, and we certainly have no idea on the timeline for implementation.  We are all part of a huge game of dominos, and nearly all of us play some part in receiving and relaying the news.  It’s exhausting to keep tracking the news because others are seeking guidance from us, whether they are church members, children, employees, or friends.

Even the County officials shared how they are constrained by State regulations.  In fact, it was at a County telebriefing that I realized that Governor Newsom issued an update on May 7.  It seems that he, in turn, was responding to challenges from rural counties who were resisting the State plan for reopening which was given on April 28.  So Newsom allowed for a county to relax the State requirements, as long as they can attest to the following:

  • No COVID-19 deaths in the past 14 days
  • No more than 1 case per 10,000 people in the last 14 days
  • Minimum daily testing of 1.5 tests per 1,000 residents
  • At least 15 contact tracers per 100,000 residents
  • County or regional hospital capacity to accommodate a minimum surge of 35%.

Just the first requirement is a show-stopper.  Los Angeles County has been averaging 40 or more deaths per day for several weeks.  But then Newsom hinted that the statewide limitations may be lifted sooner than we think.  Hence the exhaustion—mind-boggling statistics, followed by ever-changing messages.

As mentioned, the County is following State regulations, and we have to follow County regulations.  So the County pointed at the State when confirming that church services—even opening the church office or having any gathering (except for 12-step or therapeutic groups), indoors or outdoors—are classified as Stage 3. 

Even when the State allows in-person worship, there will be specific requirements that have to be met, including occupancy kept to 25-50%, easy access to hand sanitizer or handwashing stations, masks available if anyone arrives without one, proper physical distancing, regular cleaning of common areas, proper signage instructing people of the requirements, and—this one is new—registration of all attendees.  Church gatherings (including funerals and choir rehearsals) have been the source of several hotspots around the nation, so even when people are eventually allowed into gatherings in the building, the church will be expected to keep records of who attends, for possible contact tracing in case an attendee tests positive for the virus.

It is easy to become overwhelmed with the uncertainty, the new learnings we keep stumbling on (like now there may be a serious delayed response to the virus in children, in very rare cases), the new requirements, and the suspended grieving as we are unable to hold funerals as usual or visit with our ailing or elderly family members and friends. 

It’s times when we are overwhelmed that we can take comfort in remembering that all of this does not fall on our shoulders.  We have our place, but we are in the care and guidance of Jesus the Christ, who loves us more than we can understand.  We learn what we can, but our wisdom will never approach the wisdom of God, who sees this “marathon” through the lens of eternity.  And we have our power, but it is miniscule compared to the power of the Holy Spirit—power that comforts and heals, teaches and challenges and empowers. 

We are all going through this time of isolation and quiet, confusion and fear, in different ways and with different rhythms, so you may be in a very different place than I am this week.  That’s fine.  All I can suggest is that you’re all right.  Be gentle and forgiving with yourself, as Jesus is gentle and forgiving with you.  And remember that you can always let someone know if and when you need help.  Call your pastor, or friend, or me, or one of several hotlines if you need to talk or have questions.  Call 2-1-1 if you need help or a referral for a service, such as help with domestic violence questions, or if you’re a senior who would like nutritious meals delivered to your home each day through the “Great Plates Delivered” program.  That program is a perfect example of how your asking for help gives others (like underused restaurants) something to do!  So we’re all interconnected.

And if you’re looking for something to do, there are ways you can help—or get involved with singing for our May 30th Presbytery meeting!  Contact Jennifer Ackerman if you want to participate, and remember the website is frequently updated with new resources.

Blessings to you.  In the words of the apostle Paul, “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  (Ephesians 4:1b-3)

In Christ’s peace,