A Time of Change & New Insights - Vicar Dena
A Time of Change & New Insights
The Season of Easter 2020
All kinds of changes are taking place during this pandemic. Yes, some are traumatic like contagion itself and the loss of jobs and income. However, even in the face of adversity, we notice benefits. Chronic smog is giving way to blue skies. Bodies of water, once clouded, are now clear.
Our perception of time seems shifted because there seems to be more of it each day (even though there’s not.) Things we didn’t have time for, that got pushed day-by-day, month-by-month, to the bottom of our priorities, may have risen to the top and are enjoying our attention. Young adults are actually learning how to cook from scratch. Books are actually being finished. Then, there are those things we have long claimed are important to us, but didn’t have time for, which are proving not to be important after all (though it may be hard to admit.)
One such shift is occurring in the Church of the Advocate is a weekly Zoom chat shared by staff, board members, and advocates. When we are busy together in worship and ministry we don’t often take time to simply check in and let observations and ideas float into the midst of the group. But, sitting together each week in little blocks on our screens has allowed for our individual assumptions to be gathered up into shared affirmations.
Here are a few gems that we’ve gathered in our chats:
Absence makes the heart grow fonder!
This time of absence has reminded us of the blessedness of belonging in community. This is at the core of our reason for being the Church of the Advocate. COA has never kept any kind of intake records on people because each person who enters the Red Door is welcomed without question. Now, while gatherings are suspended, we are missing regular members of our community.
“Where are they?” we ask. “How can we reach out to them if we can’t find them?” This led to a conversation about the importance of belonging, and of someone holding information that is important to your being known. “Everybody wants their name in the Big Book,” we say - perhaps the one St. Peter keeps at the pearly gates. For us, it simply means a book that holds communal information about individuals. Amazing! All worshipping communities do this. It’s called the Parish Register. While recording information about the homeless and marginalized could be evaluative, we now see that having our version of a Parish Register can provide a way for those who identify with COA to be known and accounted for because they are loved and their presence matters.
Pray for one another, so that you might be healed. James 5:16
While our doors are closed, we’ve made the commitment to continue to provide hot meals each week. Passing out plastic to-go bags is a far cry from sitting around a table and sharing a meal. And, we miss our main meal, the Holy Eucharist. So, we agreed that offering pastoral presence is essential to who we are. We have been offering to pray with individuals after they pick up their meal bags. As they come for prayer, even though we are six feet apart and on the other side of a fence, these prayers for healing and intercession are meaningful and connective.
Go, therefore… Matthew 28:19
Another point of clarity was that while there is an abundance of goodwill in Asheville concerning feeding the hungry during this crisis, our ministry has long included assisting people in their daily living needs. Our three rooms – Sole Mates Shoe Closet, The Basics Supply Closet, Health and Wellness support – aren’t available to people while our doors are closed. At first, we were only focused on how to get food to people in a new way. “But, what about making supplies available outside our building?” And with those words, a grant was applied for, funds received, and we are off and running to assemble care kits of personal supplies to hand out. Shoes and other items are also available.
Time spent together to speak, listen, and to discover what wants to emerge is holy time. I pray we will carry this new practice forward, even when we can really meet in a room rather than on a screen.
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In Christ’s love,
Dena B. Whalen (The Rev. Dr.)
Vicar, Church of the Advocate, firstname.lastname@example.org, Office 828-253-9361 x227