Scripture: Click Romans 12:1-13
Most of you know that two members of my immediate family spend much of the year living overseas. My husband, Joel, is a professor in the U.K. He comes home for roughly 5-6 weeks between Oxford University’s three academic terms, and is home from mid-July until the beginning of October. Our eldest son, Krister (“Kit”), is a graduate student and works in Paris.
Happily, we collected Joel from Logan airport just after midnight on Monday. Yesterday, we spoke with Kit in the opening hours of the Paris “lock-down.” He’s not permitted to go outside without paperwork explaining the reason for his being there; the army has been deployed to monitor the streets. His job, teaching a course in mathematics to high school students, is undergoing the same sorts of changes and challenges that teachers everywhere are facing as they grapple with COVID-19 restrictions. In other words, it’s temporarily suspended while they regroup and redesign courses.
Similarly, Joel just learned that Oxford University, an institution where the “tutorial method” of instruction is a hallmark of their success (i.e., in addition to delivering lectures, professors meet with their students individually or two at a time for an hour every week for individualized instruction), is shifting all instruction online for next term. This is the prospect we’re likely facing in this country, as well. Our youngest son, a senior at Hollis-Brookline High School, isn’t the only student feeling devastated that his learning won’t happen in the presence of his peers.
On the one hand, thank God we have the technology today to be able to continue instruction! On the other hand, it’s hard not to lament all the layers of education and wisdom-acquisition that are lost in the absence of others’ flesh-and-blood-and-spiritual, bodily presence.
One of the themes of our Holy Habit of Fellowship series was the theological understanding that we’re all members of the same Body in Christ. We have different gifts, experiences, insights, passions, aptitudes. But we’re all connected; God’s work gets done most effectively when we operate like we belong to each other, as one co-operating body. What do you think are possible ways our minds might be renewed (Romans 12:2) by this unfolding critical moment?
As we “rejoice in hope, [are] patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer” (Romans 12:11), how might we practice new ways to use our personal gifts in the midst of social distancing, to work with the rest of the Body? How might this time deepen our awareness of how precious it is when we are able to be together in body and spirit?
Some beautiful pastoral advice from Rev. Mary Westfall: “Breathe. Loosen the tight grip on your heart. Open that generative, holy place within that knows, even when we are not touching, we are all connected. Let that wisdom help you craft new forms of compassion, courage, community. Promise the world your love.”
Prayer: Creator of our bodies, and Head of the sacred Body we comprise in Christ, help us to discern your good, and acceptable, and perfect will. And then give each member the courage and determination to embody it, even if it causes us to think and behave in new ways. Amen.
Music: Click “We Are One in the Spirit”