This last week for several days, my wife Regina and I visited our eldest daughter who is attending The University of the South, Sewanee. It certainly felt like a homecoming as Sewanee is where I attended Episcopal seminary in the 1990’s. It is a special place with wonderful people and tremendous opportunities to learn and grow. While we have not lived in Tennessee for quite some time, it is a magnificent state with much to offer.
Tragically this week, a horrific tornado ripped through the Nashville area causing devastation and death. Tornadoes are not unknown in this part of the world and I remember many afternoons and evenings sheltering in place.
It was also this past week I visited several clergy friends of mine and we discussed the Coronavirus, a threat of another kind with lots of unknowns. Both of these things are poignant reminders that life, while full of blessings and joy, is also indeed fragile and ephemeral.
Over the years living with the frailties of life as we all do, generally speaking I’ve had two reactions to threatening possibilities. One is to keep the words of Psalm 46 front and center, the other is to be prepared and informed and hence non- reactive or panicky.
In excerpts, Psalm 46 reads, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea: though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult…Be still and know that I am God…The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
These words are a potent reminder that ultimately we have nothing to fear because God is God. While terrible things will happen, our destiny and future with God is clear and known. And as God is love, we can trust that love is where we ultimately will all reside.
Having said this, however, it is our obligation to respond to the current situation with resources and preparedness. As our Surgeon General recently said, it is important to be cautious but not afraid.
At the Chapel, we have decided to take some very simple steps, things in fact we should do every flu season. Here is a list of what we are implementing, which is in keeping with health recommendations, as well as guidance from other churches and national church bodies.
Charla and I both use hand sanitizer before serving communion and have for years. This will continue.
Beginning this Sunday, we will serve bread and not wine. When the current crisis passes, we will resume serving wine.
As has been the case, we have hand sanitizer throughout our worship and fellowship space and ask all people to continue to practice good handwashing.
We ask, and this includes staff and clergy, that if you are sick with cold or flu symptoms on a Sunday morning, that you stay home and watch our service online (go to www.snowmasschapel.org). Of course, as always, if you are not well, we also would like to know so we can offer care and prayer.
Some churches have asked parishioners not to shake hands during gatherings, but instead to smile or bow or give a sign of peace with hands. We will leave this at your discretion, but as is the case during flu seasons, handwashing after contacting people in large groups is wise.
We are looking at ways to more effectively serve food following our Sunday service.
None of this is meant to cause alarm or fear. We are simply responding to the situation at hand with how we have been advised with easy steps. This crisis, as others have, will pass. I ask you to please join me in praying for the end of this virus, for healing for those who have been infected, and for the complete restoration of world economies upon which we all depend. Please also pray for the people of the greater Nashville area as they recover from the tornado.
Know I hold all of you in prayer and I am so grateful for each of you and for the Chapel, a place filled with the presence of Jesus, the love of God, and great care and love for one another.