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Photo credit:  Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly; use with permission only.

I had seen the pictures and videos in my news feed of teachers and schools “parading” in neighborhoods, saying hello to their students from their cars (keeping safe social distances).  The idea seemed nice enough, but I did not really think too much about the concept.  But when my children found out their elementary school would be doing the same, they jumped right in, making signs for their teachers.  We rearranged our daily schedule, and headed up to the now-unused bus stop in our neighborhood, and waited.

But it was not until I saw familiar face after familiar face – the principal, my fifth grader’s first, third, and current grade teachers; the art, computer, music, orchestra, librarian, and gym teachers; even the custodian – that I lost it.  Tears burst into my eyes, and although I could not stop smiling, I also could not stop crying.  The previous week, we had found out that due to the Coronavirus, our schools would be out for the remainder of the school year.  My fifth grader would not get to say goodbye to friends and one of the best teachers she has ever had, nor the community that has shaped her for the last four years.  My kindergartner would get no closure on her first year of school.  But here was that amazing community, coming to our neighborhood to say goodbye.

I think I burst into tears because I realized how very deeply important community is in our lives.  For the schools, our children are there five days a week, nine months of the year.  The school is a major part of the village that raises our children, teaches them, forms them into amazing citizens, and helps them find their sense of identity and purpose.  The staff and teachers at our school love our children and are a part of our family.  What this virus did was expose a huge part of our children’s lives and take it away from them.  The tears I could not stop that day were tears of gratitude, tears of blessing, tears of humility for the community I had not fully appreciated until that moment.

That is what has been so hard about having our church closed too.  We are making inroads for connection, surely.  But part of the reason we are doing that is because we know that Church is a vital community in our lives too.  Certainly, we are there because of our faith – or our desire to have faith.  But we are also at Church because the community feeds us, sustains us, and gives our lives a sense of purpose and identity.  When we cannot gather, we lose a huge part of our lives.  This week, it is my prayer that for those of you missing your church community, you will take advantage of the ways we are trying to maintain virtual connection during this time of disconnection.  We may not be able to exchange signs of the peace, offer hugs or high fives of affirmation, or kneel at the altar together.  But we can laugh at Virtual Coffee Hour, sing during livestream worship, and even cry during daily pop-up prayers.  Your community is still here, loving you and supporting you.  And we cannot wait to see you again!!