A Year On

Our modern-day heroes and health care panelists invite St. Paul’s to navigate the wilderness of COVID-19

A year ago, we started to see strange things happening in other countries and began telling our members at St. Paul’s that we might want to think differently about sharing the cup at the eucharist. No-one could have imagined this wilderness our congregation and loved ones would enter and how much it would inhabit our media and our realities. With the grim landmark of over half a million lives lost in a year, Lent, taking up our cross and following Jesus from ashes to glory, takes on a surprisingly deeper significance.

Some still struggle and resist the message -so what’s new? The healing ministry of the church, fighting the dual pandemic of racism and COVID-19 may not be what we expected to be focused on in Lent 2021, but here we are. Others still miss the point of it all and look at us as if we are insane, but as disciples of Jesus, we have seen that before also. The politics of healing got him into trouble as much as it attracted believers, so why are Bible-loving Christians still surprised at human folly?

I pay tribute to our Vestry who met 25 times during 2020 to protect us all from misinformation and isolation while we prepared courageously for a new chapter in the life of this institution. Staff and key volunteers worked diligently to create new ways of relating that we could not have imagined way back in mid- March 2020 when this video was made.

“We have never done this before” and so the church and society at large entered the desert, lost and afraid. Angels ministered to us in different disguises and masks. We were tempted to find quick and easy solutions and even to deny the power of nature over us. A battle began to defeat that which could destroy us -not just about finding a vaccine but a battle to separate lies from reality. It was and still is, a nightmare that we hope will end soon and we all wake up and can go back to the homes, schools, workplaces and lifegiving relationships that sustained and fed us BEFORE. Before what? We don’t know because we barely can put one foot in front of the other and plod on each day to keep what sanity we might have left -functioning. Is my life on life-support? When do I get off this respirator? Sermons talked  about “pivots” and “disruption” in ways that theologically did not prepare any of us for this journey through the desert. The Spirit was speaking to us, but we had no context back then. We thought it was about finding a rector. Like the children of Israel, we blamed our leaders and just wanted to go home where even the mundane things we took for granted -could be re-enacted. We thought it was just about a nice new rector and a new direction for a parish, but we underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit, brooding and flapping her wings between chaos and creativity. Where do we go from here?

To mark the anniversary of this reluctant embarkation on this quest (totally outside of our control ) we have a panel of health experts (healers) to listen to our questions. Clergy Conversations this Sunday will feature four leaders from our own Philadelphia’s health care system who have invisibly helped us all (in different ways) to survive and live in this brave new world. What is it like to work for Penn or Jefferson during this human catastrophe, keep up the work of healing, and caring on an epic scale? Surgeons, epidemiologists and health care gurus share their unique and courageous journeys and tell us what we need to know. Will we listen or even show up? The vaccines, the safety of hugging our grandchildren, the new strains of virus, travel, mental health and how we feed the soul while caring for the body to fight this thing. Will I ever sing again outside of my shower?

Join us on Sunday 28th February at 11 a.m. for a conversation you will not forget as followers of the divine healer. And, if all of this isn’t enough….later that day, at 5 p.m. Mother Le Claire will ZOOM  in and magically connect us all to native American spirituality and healing as we explore the four key elements of ancient practice and wisdom. Science, tradition and our ability to be open and hopeful to the future are all just a button away. Look through this window, as we learn from the mistakes and wisdom of the past. Lent 2021 – really? Cross? What cross?


Albert Ogle