As a way of giving you some broad-brush strokes of how MSP’s Leadership is navigating the COVID-19 pandemic this summer, I would like to weave these thoughts on silence and solitude into our Parish’s present landscape. Taking my cue from the title of Bishop Sutton’s recent meditation to Clergy and Lay Leaders (Diocesan Zoom Check-in, June 17), they are three separate meditations on one single theme.
The first is from Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds of Silence:’ Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again…And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains, within the sound of silence. Although many of us are eager to ‘get back to church,’ and to ‘see each other again,’ we remain in an unmistakable period of silence. Our Bishops have given churches the authority to enter into what they call, ‘the Orange phase’ (of re-entry and re-gathering.) This phase is summarized succinctly on our Diocesan Website (episcopalmaryland.org) as one of ‘significantly limited LIVE in-person gatherings and public use of (the) property.’ Accordingly, we will maintain the same robust schedule of ON-LINE, SUNDAY Worship Services that we have started ever since the pandemic begun. (You can read further about these Services in our Weekly newsletter.) As Bishop Sutton cautiously put it, the Diocese of Maryland is “keeping to the science,” i.e., there is no rush to re-open for LIVE, IN-PERSON Services while the Corona Virus continues to rage throughout our communities, country, and world. Moreover, the spiritual practice and discipline of engaging silence only strengthens us for this longer haul—which scientists warn is likely coming with a ‘second wave.’
Secondly, from Henri Noewen (1932 – 1996): Friendship, marriage, family, religious life, and every other form of community is solitude greeting solitude, spirit speaking to spirit, and heart calling to heart. It is the grateful recognition of God’s call to share life together…Indeed, under the leadership of Vestry and Parish Lay Leaders, our community has enabled this ‘solitude greeting solitude’—connections within our parish have been strengthened through the Caring Network, the Lay Pastoral Visitors (whose ‘visits’ are now restricted to phone calls/texts/ZOOM), the monthly Food Drops, the weekly Big Conversations. That someone whom you’ve been longing to see again is only a phone call, letter, or drive-by wave away! Out of the depths of (some would say, ‘enforced’) solitude, comes a new and more vibrant ‘grateful recognition of God’s’ call to share life together…’ COVID-19 has not diminished our call to ‘be church’ to one another. If anything else, the riches that come out of prolonged solitude only serve to enrich our ‘friendships, marriages, family, and religious lives.’
Lastly, this prayer from Fr. Thomas Keating (1923 – 2018), inviting us to actually pray for the gift and grace of silence and solitude: My Lord and my God, you always called your friends to come apart and spend time with you in solitude. We have heard that call and seek to be alone with you who came to us and made your dwelling place in us…May our prayer be one with that of all persons throughout the world who are in solitude and stillness, so that we may form a silent hymn of praise and glory to you…
Sisters and brothers in Christ~ we remain in a highly dangerous and vulnerable time—by all of the scientific indicators that we have. Rest assured that the vision that was planted…in our brain—remains. I and your Vestry remain committed to taking those decisions that will, one day, re-open MSP in a safe and healthy way. Please let I or any member of the Vestry know of your thoughts and concerns. Meanwhile, together with our sisters and brothers throughout the Diocese, we will STAY CALM…STAY CONNECTED…STAY CHURCH. To God be All the Glory!
Faithfully, Pastor LindaK+