I write this as a relatively new member of the Somers community. I have lived here for only about eighteen months, having arrived in September of 2018 as the new Priest in Charge (as we call it in my church) at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the columned white colonial-styled building right next to Bailey Park. Over the first sixteen months of my tenure, I came to know and love our parishioners, and also to enjoy conversing with the local merchants of the stores, restaurants and delis nearby, and my neighbors whom I passed walking in the mornings in the nearby Greenbriar neighborhood where I live.
So the new imposition of restrictions on social interaction did not come easy for me. I must also admit my lack of grace and my reluctance to accept the restrictions as they have become more and more severe, and begin to feel even a more burdensome thing. All of this is made worse by the fact that I suffered a heart attack in mid-January, followed by emergency open-heart surgery, which was followed a week later by a stroke. Once I had gotten strong enough to begin physical therapy at our local Burke Rehab Clinic, and feeling back to myself, I suddenly had to face the fact that the joy of human touch would also be severely limited, as we are all being required to keep such strange distances from each other.
I have decided to think of the things I am allowed and given the freedom to do, and just be grateful to be alive, especially in such a loving and welcoming community, rather than be resentful of all the innumerable things that seem to have been “taken,” such as sporting events, plays and concerts. So I have made a list of the pleasing things that I am not prevented from doing. These are the things that are not “cancelled:”
NOT CANCELLED: Family
NOT CANCELLED: Music
NOT CANCELLED: Prayer
NOT CANCELLED: Laughing
NOT CANCELLED: Recovering from Insufficient Sleep
NOT CANCELLED: Exploring the Bible, or whatever spiritual book you enjoy, from a new perspective
NOT CANCELLED: Getting Outdoors
NOT CANCELLED: Singing
NOT CANCELLED: Re-connecting with Someone after “too long”
NOT CANCELLED: Journaling my deepest thoughts or feelings
NOT CANCELLED: Reading
NOT CANCELLED: Helping Others
NOT CANCELLED: Exercise
NOT CANCELLED: Love
NOT CANCELLED: Hope
I have particularly enjoyed spending time, at an appropriate physical distance, of course, from one of my parishioners, Kathi Casella, a long-time resident of Somers, who runs the Somers Food Pantry from the undercroft at our church. Kathi, along with seven or eight other volunteers of all faiths, have been doing this work tirelessly for the past six years. They were undaunted by the mandate to not gather inside in large groups. They, with much thought and heavy work, figured a way to have an outdoor drive-through delivery station on our parking lot. They only missed one week of service. It was one of my recent greatest pleasures to stand and watch the volunteers assemble all of the bags of groceries to be given away, and then watch as the cars lined up on Friday afternoon to receive their much-needed groceries.
In these days of social distancing, the push for connection and conversation via voice, text, and social media is high. The amount and frequency of information being sent out is the equivalent of howler monkeys in high alert mode. In the midst of it all, I’ve been grateful for the practice of profound silence. Silence around me and silence within. It is a practice cultivated over time, a practice I’m still cultivating, a practice that continues to teach me.
Since these days of silence began, I’ve come to appreciate how the regular practice and discipline of silence can soften my heart and shape my spoken words, reigning in an impulsive response, tempering an unkind thought, or quieting excess words.
Silence leaves space for God to speak and me to hear. Indeed, silence IS my teacher and I’m feeling the need to sit at her feet with deep attention during these days amidst the howler monkeys. What better outcome can we secure but the knowledge that the source of all your love, and the source of all your desire, and the source of all your gifts, and the source of everything that you’re blessed with is in your presence all the time?
But as I look at the number of Sundays off from worshipping with my parish family, this is hard! I appreciate the amazing opportunities to worship with my brothers and sisters via live stream, but I will miss my people face-to-face. I will miss my flock and all their many gifts of love and perfect imperfections that gladden my heart.
But we are resilient and faithful. After all of the years through all the socio economic changes that this community has endured and this We have all lived through, that is all we know! Sometimes in vulnerable moments when I feel so helpless, I hear a voice saying, “here we are—let’s show up today.” I am so grateful that I still can. And we will get through this— one tear, one step, one wail, one day, one Sunday, one week, one month at a time. Let’s give thanks for what we have and use this time to get less busy and more healthy.
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