“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
~ Frederick Beuchner
This quotation sits on an index card on my altar in my office at home. Next to it are photos of loved ones, sacred objects, a candle, and a bell. This little spot has become more important to me since I’m spending so much of my time here and not in the Fellowship building. The quotation seems appropriate now since the spring weather—flowers and trees leafing and blossoming—is balanced by the creeping realization that this coronavirus is not going away soon.
Beautiful things will happen in this life. I interact with people I love. I witness joy and compassion and support in this Fellowship among all of you. We plant flowers in a garden bed that was empty.
Yet terrible things are happening too. The coronavirus is plateauing rather than spiking and receding. The government and the health care system are inadequate to deal with the virus comprehensively. We seem to be ill equipped as a society to grapple with a pandemic of this scale and of this duration. The consequence of this seems to be, as best I can guess at this point, that the contagion will be here in waves for months to come. I was resigned to spending the month of April in isolation, but this week I have had to come to terms with doing the same for May. After that, who knows? But I’m beginning to glimpse further months of social distancing with little change. I’m beginning to glimpse a future where human contact is wary and scarce, at least for a while. The idea of returning to normal is not realistic.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen, Frederick Beuchner reminds us. And he says: “Don’t be afraid.” This is the saving thought for me right now. After all, we know that this thing we call human life has this bargain built into it: there will be joy and sadness. People are loving, kind, generous—and they can be cruel. We love and enjoy life—and we will surely lose it. But the wisdom I am clinging to today is not to be afraid. If we can embrace the challenge of this moment, we can experience the joy and beauty of this spring—even with necessary caution. If we are not afraid, we can be together (at medium distance with masks on, or by telephone and video) and share life’s joy together.
Yesterday I took a risk and brought my cello outside to practice. I sat by my front door in the driveway shared by the other residents of this duplex. After playing for a few minutes my neighbor came out to say how much he appreciated it. “Keep going, man!” he encouraged me.
May we all keep going.
Spirit of life and love, be here now and fill the hearts of all who hear this prayer with hope.
May we face our fear and live life regardless. May we embrace joy and beauty as it comes. May we share greetings and friendship with our neighbors. May we find new ways to congregate by video conference and by social distancing and by agreeing to wear masks. Let us not be afraid of one another.
Spirit of life and love, grant us resolve to do the right thing in our social distancing, though we are weary of it already and though we don’t know how long it will last. Grant us patience and remind us that we are doing this for each other, for our elders, and for our more vulnerable brothers, sisters, siblings, cousins.
May all be well, and may all know peace. May it be so.
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Rev. Andrew Frantz
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