I wonder if you have ever noticed how some of the shortest questions seem to have the longest answers. I have been feeling a bit of that recently as I am guessing you have too. “How long?” Short question with no quick or easy answer. Lest we think it a new question, I would remind you that it appears at least 58 times in the Bible in widely varying circumstances. Probably because when our lives are interrupted for an extended period of time, we come face to face with yearnings and wonderings that are not quickly settled. Here are some “How long?” questions that have been circling around of late in my head and in my heart and maybe in yours, as well.
How Long…until you can get just a little break from planning worship?
How long, some of you pastors may be asking, will I have to plan worship in this unusual form? How long before I can get a break? Here’s a gift for you: I have been part of the development of a worship service together with all the other Conference Ministers of the United Church of Christ. This special worship resource has been developed based on a text for Sunday, May 17th, (but can be used any time). It comes in the form of both a full worship service video that can be played as one piece or as separate videos so that you can pick and choose based on what fits best for your context. There is also a complete print form if video is not easily utilized in your setting. You can find these resources by clicking here. Once on the landing page, be sure to scroll down to see all the available links.
How Long…until we can gather for in-person worship?
This question, of course, leads to a host of other questions. There are several resources on our website which may be of help to you in considering necessary questions and procedures by clicking here. I would again affirm the current recommendation made together with our association minister colleagues that in-person worship not be considered until at least May 31st and quite possibly longer than that. Here are some starting point questions: What is the Ohio, West Virginia or Kentucky Department of Health saying about group gatherings? There are many other questions, of course. But this one might help inform all the others: Who is left out by the decision to re-gather in person due to the risks which such regathering creates? As further information becomes available, we will continue to tend this question of “How long?” in terms of in-person worship. But there is yet another “How long?” question that has arisen in my heart as a result of the recently released video of the death of a young African American man in Georgia.
How Long…will young African American men continue to be killed with little or slow accountability?
Of course, this is not a new question at all. It is as old as slavery. But the recent video showing the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery by a white father and son this past February in Georgia raises the question again… “How long?” The challenge of COVID 19 is not only its immediate impact on every corner of the world but also how it can allow other viruses like racism to go unchecked, untalked about, and unnoticed, unless of course you happen to be a young African American male jogging near your home. The truth is that we live inside a multiplicity of systems that largely go unnoticed until someone we love is at risk.
The answer to the “How long?” question of re-entry for worship is not so very different from the “How long” question of racism’s persistent and pernicious presence. It leads to another question, “If there was something that I knew I could say or do through love to interrupt the viral spread of COVID 19 or racism and its effects, would I do it?” I want my answer more and more to be authentically “yes” and I invite you to join with me in this commitment. I do not know the answer to “How long?” But I do have faith that my desire to love can be multiplied by God’s desire for healing and ultimately resurrection in every dimension of life. And because of this, I have hope for the road ahead however long it may be. And I hope you do too. Blessings and strength to you all for this long urgency we share as the human family.