Finding Comfort and Community in the New Normal
“Hi, Miss Em!”
“I like that painting behind you, Cam!”
“Why can’t I see everybody’s faces?”
“You have to click on gallery view.”
“Are you really in Nebraska?”
These are samples of conversations among those who joined the Rector's Thursday Bible study last week. Everybody was so happy to be together again, and many signed on early so that they could chat. At the end of the study another opportunity was given for people to visit. What joy we all experienced to be connected this way on the marvel of Zoom.
Our priests have been jerked out of their comfort zones in a very unexpected way, and they have all met the challenge with grace and eagerness. Some admitted that they had quite a steep learning curve to get comfortable with being filmed, with teaching on Zoom, and with the whole virtual world. But boy, how they all have risen to the challenge. First, we had our beautiful Holy Week services, seeing the inside of the building, flowers galore, and the priests, Pat Gould, and the choir up front and ministering to us. Yes, we had to watch it on our computers, but somehow it all worked, and gloriously. How strange it must have been for all of them to meet in an empty church, play music to empty pews, and speak to a camera. But they did it, and they did it for us. And it worked, and we could worship our Lord in spirit and in truth.
Then came the Daily Devotions. We got to see Marc in the woods with his guitar, and Andrew in his garage with his tools, and Ryan and Jeff in their libraries, and Brian in his green room. Sometimes they wore their priestly garb, other times not. During the devotions that we watched, we felt that those five men were actually in the room with us, talking directly to us. They appear comfortable ministering to us, informally, up close and personal, and we are benefitting greatly. Each devotion is an inspiration, an encouragement, so needed right now. What a comfort to see their smiling faces in our living rooms or kitchens, and hear their guitars and music offerings—so glorious.
Next we experienced C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters with Brian on Wednesday nights and the Gospel according to Matthew with Jeff on Thursdays. Brian’s online class allowed people to “chat” and comment during the teaching, and it was so much fun to see what people were saying and asking. Again, we felt connected to each other this way, listening to how to foil the devil by our habits and actions. Jeff's Matthew class was glorious. The participation grew to close to 100 people and we could experience the paintings, the PowerPoint outlines, and the riveting teaching we’ve gotten used to from our Rector. The chats at the beginning and end, and looking at each other’s faces during the teaching, were almost as good as being together in person. And the most recent new offering, Andrew's Sunday morning Spiritual Gifts workshop—another marvelous new experience. He figured out how to divide us into small groups, a revelation. And it worked. His past career as a computer science teacher has come in handy!
How can we show our appreciation to our five wonderful priests who have delivered these offerings to us so generously, and in a method so out of their knowledge base? The amazing thing is that people who do not regularly attend St. Philip's are joining in. My homebound friend from another church has finally been able to attend the Thursday study, and he loved it.
Behind all of these clergy are the fabulous support staff who have taped, filmed, facilitated, fixed glitches, taught the priests what to do—how can we ever thank the marvelous crew in the background? In the past three weeks, how many times have I heard people say that they are absolutely amazed at what our church staff and clergy are doing to help us feel connected during this time. We all look so forward to showing our staff and clergy our gratitude when we come together in person once more. A heartfelt thank you to you all.
Did you know that the children and youth of our parish and preschool have also been blessed with virtual classes, youth group, choir rehearsals, Bible studies, discipleship groups, and other online activities thanks to Angela Clark and Lee Moore, David Gilbert and Sarah Silcox, Jo Hethcox, and Amy Watson Smith? If your middle- or high-schooler has not yet joined virtual youth group, please contact David Gilbert to get set up! And please contact Amy Watson Smith if you would like to receive emails with resources for children and families.