This Week at Trinity, Beamsville
Friday, July 23, 2021
This week’s musings have been harder than usual to piece together. I don’t think I have any in-depth understanding or reason for that. I usually know well in advance what I think I’d like to say, but like the lead Susan in ‘Between Friends’, this week I just kept landing on “I’m weary”. Even with restrictions easing and interactions increasing, there’s still a cumulative weight of what we’ve been carrying for so long. I suspect many of you are weary of it all, too, but that still just felt like poor use of a page, to say in repeat.
I guess I felt some sense of validation, or commiseration, when two days ago I opened an email with this simple subject line: “Your last deep breath.” Sent by a seminary where I’ve taken some courses these last years, it’s clear they have a sense of where lots of clergy reside right now. “Your last deep breath” is the catchphrase for a 3-part look at ‘Processing the Pandemic for Ministry’. It’s built on the wise understanding that “everything has been a blur for nearly a year and a half, and stopping to meditate, to reflect on what’s transpired—personally and professionally—hasn’t always felt like an option.” Enter the quest for the last deep breath.
Part of me doesn’t want to admit that it’s often hard to remember when I took my last deep breath – but I know that, like countless others in pastoral ministry, I have struggled with the unseen finish line for church in this way. The wondering/worrying lines are undeniable, and while it may be purely coincidental in timing, it wasn’t lost on me that at my last haircut, my stylist and longtime friend stood behind me (albeit after 4 months apart) and exclaimed: “Heather, look at all your beautiful grey hair that’s blossomed back here.” Aah, right. “No doubt,” I laughed and replied. It’s well earned.
I don’t want to sound vain, and I certainly don’t want to pretend that I have it worse than most, at any time but especially now. There are still plenty of things to honour and celebrate, and to give humble thanks for all that continues to go right; for lives saved and protected, for priorities redefined, for resources and generosity that continue to keep this congregation afloat and ready for our collective return. I’ve also had the gift of sabbatical at the halfway point of this marathon, which gave me precious space to pause for a while. Even so, there’s something long and still-hard-to-define about what we’ve been living in, and through. There’s so much to process, for every part of society, and the church is no exception. Where will we go from here, and how will we come to articulate and learn from where we’ve been this last while?
I haven’t yet signed up for the course. Intrigued as I am, it looms a bit, as another online gathering in the weekly onslaught that directly contributes to the weary. I think I’ll decide after this weekend; after a much-appreciated weekend off, to celebrate our marriage milestone, and to come away from the one-sided scrutiny of camera and screens. If only for a short while, it’s a sacred gift of sabbath that brings with it opportunity for reflection and restoration. Sabbath brings the promise of renewed perspective, for past, present, and future. From sabbath, we can leap a little higher, like Susan, in her Friday morning reverie. With rest and gratitude, may we learn to accept what has happened, then find the courage to click our heels in renewed joy and optimism, and embrace where God calls us to go next. That sounds like a faith-based, experience-based course we could all take, and thrive in, together.
With love to you all,
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33.14, NRSV)
p.s. if you’re looking for other churches to connect with for an online Sunday service, here are some locals, and some farther afield, for your weekly worship. Enjoy this travelling Sunday!
First Grantham United Church, St. Catharines: https://www.firstgrantham.ca/
Trinity United Church, Thorold: https://www.trinityunitedchurchthorold.ca/
Topsail United Church, Conception Bay South, NL: https://topsailunited.ca/
St. Paul’s United Church, Edmonton, AL: https://stpaulsunited.org/