News from the Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
We all know the saying: “There are lies, contemptible lies, and statistics.” (This is a family-oriented eNews, so the language is cleaned up a bit.) Nevertheless, as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, the statistics are staggering and somber.
As vaccines continue to be rolled out – Florida has opened vaccinations to age 18 and older – hope continues to grow that we will begin to come out on the other side of this pandemic. We have talked on recent pastor check-ins about having conversations about what type of church we want to be and will be on the other side of the pandemic. Now is the time to be having these discussions.
All of this got me thinking about the 1918 flu pandemic and how people back then handled the challenges it presented. Many of the things we have done over the past year were done over 100 years ago – wearing masks, social distancing, closing down most venues where people would be in close contact, like schools, theaters, and certain stores. The picture to the right comes from California during that era. The last person on the right has a sign around her neck that says, “WEAR A MASK or go to jail!”
One difference was, normal social interaction was only shut down for a little less than a month, and then most places began to open back up fully. This happened in November of 1918, the same time the armistice was signed to end World War I. People were celebrating both the end of the war and the end of the pandemic, except that a second wave of the flu quickly erupted and caused more illness and death.
We do not want to repeat that experience, which is why most of the protocols we have followed for the past year remain a part of our lives today, even as more people are vaccinated and more businesses, schools, and the like struggle to resume as close to normal operations as they can. But these areas also become focal points over continued disagreements over what should be relaxed, and what should not, as we move forward.
It strikes me that as we celebrate Eastertide, we are in a situation where the basic message of the season – life springing forth from the midst of death, and our Risen Lord making all things new – should speak to us in ways that it has not in previous years. As the statistics cited above reveal, we will come out of the valley of the shadow of death and look with hope to the new possibilities we will encounter as we move forward together. We are not there yet, but the more people who get vaccinated means fewer possibilities for the virus to spread. It means that we need to continue certain protocols that we all are getting tired of doing. The ear loops of the masks I wear have made my ears sore. But it is a small price to pay to make sure I am doing what I can, not just to protect myself, but more importantly, to protect others.
It has been a long, stressful year. Let us not lose heart, but persevere as we meet the challenges we still face. I am reminded of this exchange in the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:
So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?
Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.
So let us “ride out” and celebrate Eastertide 2021, and proclaim that Jesus is risen indeed, that death holds no power over us, and that the powers and principalities of this age, though they may rage, have been defeated! “And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5 (NRSV))
The question is, what will “new” look like?
Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams