“Holed Up for a Year, I Hope…”
Holy Week blog post from Chuck McCoart
Today, March 11th, is the one year anniversary on which the World Health Organization acknowledged what had already become a reality, that the world we knew was dealing with a deadly pandemic. About a week later, California would become the first state to go on lockdown. Soon after, a wave of states followed, forcing churches, businesses, schools, and restaurants to close. And as everything shut down, the unemployment rate shot up – reaching nearly 15% at the height of the pandemic.
Like you, I remember where I was when I sensed things were beginning to get serious. A couple of days before California locked down, our seminarian at the time, and now priest, Pete Nunnally (another writer in this series) was ordained a transitional deacon. Several of us from the parish went to celebrate with Pete and all of the other candidates who were being ordained … parishioner Claire Elser among them. We all hugged, patted each other on the back, sat close to one another in the pews, sang hymns at the top of our lungs, and then shared a delicious buffet meal together in the parish hall afterwards. Everything about that event was normal and that would be the last normal gathering any of us would experience since then. Since then, nothing has been normal … or we’ve all been faced with our new normal: excessively washing hands, social distancing, working from home, not gathering in large groups, etc.
Ironically, days before the pandemic I painted and hung a large “Gather” sign in my kitchen, a constant reminder to me of this one year anniversary. I’m a gatherer by nature. I’m Irish after all, so it’s in my DNA. It hurts me to the core that we’ve not been able to gather the way we all used to so naturally and seemingly effortlessly, certainly innocently.
Pandemic was a word for sci-fi movies.
I learned to have an increased respect for germs.
I went from washing my hands a half dozen times a day to dozens of times a day, willing to do just about anything to ward off unwittingly catching the deadly disease. Whew, that’s a lot. Is it any wonder we’ve – the whole collective world “we” – have experienced trauma in ways we never imagined? Think of loved ones dying alone in a hospital bed. Think of being one of those family members desperately wanting to be with your dying loved ones. Imagine being jobless or homeless during this time? Or now, trapped at home day in and day out with your abuser?
Everyone has been affected one way or another. One in three people in our country have lost a family member to the virus. People all across our country have said painful heart-wrenching goodbyes to more than half a million people. Tens of millions more have been infected – some of whom are still feeling COVID-19 symptoms. Black Americans have been disproportionately affected – and are about twice as likely as white Americans to die from complications from the coronavirus. Women have lost more jobs than men. And there’s been a rise in anti-Asain hate crimes.
But, amidst all the lows, there is hope.
Science came through, delivering three safe and effective vaccines in the US. We’re told this is a feat that typically takes upwards of ten years to accomplish. After a sluggish start, we’re starting to see our largest national vaccination effort ever and to date more than 10% of our country has been safely vaccinated – many of whom can now live a less-restrictive lifestyle. Soon grandparents can safely visit grandchildren. Soon families can safely get together with extended family members and friends alike. Slowly life is starting to resemble some of what we used to experience before the virus took over the world.
We’re not at a place where vaccinated people can go back to fully living out their pre-pandemic lives. Remember large sized crowds, concerts, baseball games, holiday parades, and the like?! The CDC’s message is clear: vaccines are a crucial tool in getting the country a little closer to what we used to experience pre-pandemic … but move wisely and be mindful and careful.
Like you, I hope we don’t lose everything we’ve experienced this past year. I’ve seen far more engaged fathers in the lives of their children than I ever saw before the virus. I’ve witnessed first hand people in our parish and preschool cooperate and collaborate together in ways that pre-pandemic were simply not happening. I’ve heard of parishioners reaching out to estranged family members they had not spoken to in years, just to check in to make sure everyone was fairing better than expected. For a time the planet got to breathe a little more healthily because carbon fuels were not being used to the extent they were before. Now, even in the early days of recovery, pollution numbers are already on the rise. We need to remember what we’ve learned.
Holed up for a year, I hope … that we can get back to more in-person gatherings as soon as it is safe to do so. Jesus loved to break bread with His friends. So do I. As soon as we can, let’s gather together again. There’s always a place for you at my table.
For those hoping for a little prayer, I found this prayer to share:
A Prayer For Strength During This Challenging Time
We pray for Your love and compassion to abound as we walk through this challenging time.
We ask for Your wisdom for those who bear the load of making decisions with widespread consequences.
We pray for those who are suffering with sickness and all who are caring for them.
We ask for Your protection for the elderly and vulnerable to not succumb to the risks of the virus.
We pray for misinformation to be curbed so that fear may take no hold in hearts and minds.
As we exercise the good sense that You in Your mercy provide, may we also approach each day in faith and peace, trusting in the truth of Your goodness towards us. Amen.
The Rev. Charles C. McCoart, Jr. is Rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Alexandria, VA.
P.S. Click here to check out other posts in this series!
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog