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Photo credit: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hugging-for-20-seconds-a-day-may-reduce-your-stress-2zck2d7h6

A few weeks ago, we met friends for an outdoor playdate with our kids and each other.  We had not seen them in a long time, and all of us had received one or both of our COVID shots.  Excited to see each other, there were lots of squeals and warm words of greeting.  Then my friend did something that shocked my system.  She came in close and said quietly, “I’m going to hug to you now.”  We were both masked and I have always been a “hug person.”  But when she pulled me in for a hug, I realized I have not hugged anyone outside of my immediate family for thirteen months.  I felt simultaneously anxious and comforted, tense and overwhelmingly relieved.  Feeling the conflicted reactions flooded me with a sadness for all that has been lost in this last year and a hopefulness for what is to come.

A year ago, I remember thinking that as soon as this pandemic were over, we were going to have a huge party at church.  As I think back to that sentiment now, I see how naïve it was.  I had no idea how long this would take.  I had no idea we would need vaccines, and when they finally became available, some people would refuse to take them.  I had no idea that even with adults fully eligible, children would not immediately be eligible for vaccinations.  I had no idea there would be no neat and tidy “end” to this pandemic.

And so, instead of a huge party, we are making tentative, slow steps toward a semblance of normalcy:  gathering for Eucharist, but socially distanced, masked and with only about 50 people; outdoor funerals with similar restrictions; thinking through modified baptisms and weddings that will not be the same, but at least can happen; carefully considering how we might sing together, following exceedingly stringent guidelines and regulations; and seeing faces we have missed all year, even if we cannot embrace. 

Watching all of this unfold in Eastertide somehow seems so appropriate.  We often think of Eastertide as the time we joyfully celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, a seven-weeklong party of sorts.  But that was not anything like what Eastertide was for the disciples.  There was fear, disbelief, confusion, denial, and hesitancy.  Even as Jesus offers his body as a proof text, the disciples are more often cowering in upper rooms than throwing parties in the streets.  Coming out of trauma – either of the death of your Messiah or out of a worldwide pandemic – is not instantaneous, straightforward, or clear.  This Eastertide, I have been especially grateful to journey through Eastertide with the disciples.  Somehow, their muddled, messy behavior has been a comfort and sign of solidarity during these strange times.  I hope you are finding similar companionship this Eastertide.  And if you want some modern disciples to walk with you, you are always welcome at Hickory Neck!