After six months of waiting, planning, praying, and organizing, my parish finally held our first in-person socially distanced worship service. We had prepared our members and guests for how different Socially Distanced (SD) Worship would be, even producing an instructional video. And when the day finally came, our volunteers were amazing – sanitizing, directing, monitoring, and executing a beautiful morning of worship.
I have been reflecting on the experience of finally being back in the worship space with other people, and I realized what we have been saying all along was true: it was not the same as worship before the pandemic. Certainly, the service was familiar: the liturgy, beautiful music, the physical patterns of standing and sitting, and the reception of communion. But the little things were different: the inability to physically embrace or shake hands (something that felt sorely needed after such a long separation), the absence of touch during the Eucharist (an act that has always felt intimately and sacredly physical), the general tentativeness of all gathered (the desire to keep each other safe creating an underlying tension). We had said SD Worship would be different, and it was.
But SD Worship was also good. You could feel the palpable relief of everyone to finally be back in the space we love. I watched as our deacon became much more animated while preaching with people in the room. I heard sounds I had not heard in the last six months – a familiar lector reading the lesson, the organ and a violin making an otherwise spoken service feel whole, and voices responding in a room that has been mostly empty on Sundays. It was definitely not the same. But it was certainly good.
One of the things that has impressed me during this pandemic is the ability of parishioners, neighbors, and friends to see goodness. When a health crisis occurs, in the stress of restarting schools virtually, in the inconveniences of wearing masks and staying home, I still encounter people who can name goodness in this time. My invitation for you this week is to find something good and holy about this most unusual time each day. Try to imagine the way God responds in creation at the end of each day, saying, “It was good.” What is good in your day today? Where are the moments of grace, the occasions of gratitude, the sacred for you this week? I hope you will share them, as your moment of goodness may be what someone needs to help them see goodness in their life too.