It was March of 2020. That is just 15 months ago, although it may seem forever. We monitored closely what was happening around the world and within our own region. We sat, prayed, and consulted with one another. Then, we made that decision: close it all down.
We intentionally put lives ahead of liturgy. We closed our doors to the public for in-person worship, but we didn’t just walk away; instead, we invested in enhanced livestream capabilities, open air tent masses, a new sanctuary for when we opened again, a drive through nativity and holy communion, FM broadcasting, and more. Then, we waited, and prayed, patiently. We were scared.
While many churches closed down permanently, we buried our dead, supported our sick, prayed for the living and waited some more. We asked God for help, but the silence was deafening. Still, we invested even more in safety measures and protected our school population and our teachers and increased our personal protective gear and our sanitation. We spent almost $2,000 a week in deep cleaning expenses alone, all to ensure everyone’s safety.
Then, we opened our doors, but it was to be only for two weeks because we found it wasn’t safe enough. So, closed it all down again and cried; we prayed some more as we worried, and uncertainty became the new norm.
In our fear, we didn’t run or shrink from our responsibility. While some of our parishioners have since left, or decided they no longer need God, we prayed for them, but stood fast to recommit to the living still here. In fact, in the height of the pandemic, we still fed over 143,000 people experiencing homelessness, but still no one cared. We stayed, but still no one cared. We opened our school and kept hundreds of children, faculty, and their families safe, but still no one cared. We stayed, but still no one cared. We buried those no one else would, and still no one cared. But we stayed anyway. We believed and we cared, and we prayed, and we stayed.
And because of our faith, we finally made it through the worst and reopened our parish doors; first, with only a slight, timid crack, then to a wide-open door, but we did so carefully and in accordance with guidelines from those who know science and health better. We continued to spend large amounts of funds on keeping everyone safe. Slowly, people tricked in and while we are nowhere near where we once were, we are open, and it feels so lovely to feel God’s grace again.
We lost a tremendous amount of funds over the last 16 months, both from the lack of giving because we were closed, but also the inability for people to give when they lost their jobs, but also due to the increased expenses in keeping everyone safe. There are no regrets. We did what we needed to do to preserve life. We made it through, despite the heavy losses, and still we waited, and we prayed, and finally God heard us, and the vaccine was developed at rapid speed, and we had something that we did not have for many many months: hope.
Now a much stronger and more contagious variant of that which we abhorred and prayed against is taking over our nation again, and people are being selfish as they refuse to listen to the experts and get a simple vaccination. It’s free and quick, and still many don’t care. And who is the primary recipient of our selfishness and politics-first lifestyle? It’s our most vulnerable: the immunocompromised, the aged and infirmed, our children and now our teenagers, too, who are suffering and dying because – deep where we won’t let people in – we are a selfish and mean-spirited people who would rather wave flags and speak of glory and false patriotism than to get a shot in their arm and save actual lives.
The world is hurting because we forgot about faith and God. The church is hurting because we somehow now think we can live without God. Many haven’t returned to worship but are flocking to the beaches. This parish is hurting, and my pleas fall in deaf ears while the world is dying. Because. We. Are. Selfish.
Get vaccinated. Period. If you are not afraid of dying or think God is on your damn side, then you have nothing to lose. But in the end, this isn’t about you and your selfishness. It’s about the elderly woman who lives alone down the street, or the homeless person eating from cans, or the child with a complex medical history, or your grandmother…or mine.
Stop it. Stop being selfish and get your shot. After all, your faith is false if you kill another.