I'm not complaining

i suppose that I could complain about the year that has just passed. A year of living in the midst of a global pandemic with all of its restrictions has caused some stress. There have been a lot of losses. We didn’t have the Holy Week we had planned for our last year as pastors. My brass group never got to play the jazz pieces we had worked so hard to rehearse. We missed out on the kind of retirement celebration we had envisioned. We didn’t have the opportunity to share the hugs and farewells that seemed so natural after 25 years of ministry in our Rapid City congregation. Most importantly, we, like everyone else, have lost friends and acquaintances to Covid-19. There has been a pall of grief over our country and we are not immune to its effects.

There have been so many changes. For nearly 42 years we had practiced ministry as a hands-on, face-to-face enterprise. We had not thought of ourselves as media personalities and we left the recording of videos to others. We had written curricula for church schools that was based on people gathering in groups and were filled with in-person activities. We had participated in worship the center of the life of the congregations we served. For all of our lives, going to church meant going. We left our home and we went to the church building. All of that had to change and the last months of your active career is a hard time to learn a completely new way of doing your job.

This Sunday I’m serving as a guest preacher in the congregation where we “attend” church here in Washington. To do so, I prepared my sermon. I studied the scriptures. I tried to discover connections between the scriptures and the lives of the people in the congregation. It has been a challenge. I’ve only worshiped in-person in this congregation one time and that was in 2018 when our sabbatical included worshiping with several congregations in this area. My preaching included getting dressed up. I put on a clean white shirt and a tie. I set up the lights in our living room and I made a video recording that will be inserted into the worship service when it is live-streamed on Sunday. So it is Wednesday, and my part of the work of my guest preaching has been completed. I even figured out how to convert the video file, upload it to the cloud and send a link in an email message that allows the people at the church to insert it into the worship livestream. Never in my wildest imagination could I have envisioned such a way of doing worship when I began my career as a minister.

Looking back at the year, measuring Holy Week 2020 to Holy Week 2021, a lot has happened in our lives. And I suppose I could echo some of the complaints I have heard from others. People are exhausted. They are experiencing memory problems, short fuses, decreases in productivity and depression in the midst of social isolation. In the face of all of this, I realize how incredibly fortunate I have been.

Compared to a lot of other people, I never suffered a gap in my income stream. I went from receiving my paycheck to receiving the income from our retirement savings as smoothly as would have happened had there been no pandemic. I know a lot of people who experienced periods of unemployment, were laid off from their work, and have spent the year searching for new jobs. And we have had stable housing during the pandemic. We went from home ownership to rental, but that is by choice and we are currently shopping for a home to purchase and expect to be in that home by the end of the year. Moving twice in as many years should help us pare down our possessions even more.

Scanning my feed in Facebook yesterday I read a note from a friend who has been completely isolated during the pandemic. She has a job that allows her to work from home. She posted that when she received the first dose of vaccine this week it was the first time she had been touched by another human being in more than a year. The news stopped me short. WOW! I can’t imagine a year without being touched. We have been far more isolated than our usual lifestyle, but we have had each other. And inside of our pandemic bubble have been both of our children and their spouses and all four of our grandchildren. We’ve had dinner at the homes of friends and we’ve had guests to dinner in our house. There haven’t been any large group gatherings, but we’ve bumped fists and even shaken hands with lots of different people. I suppose, in retrospect, we were taking some unnecessary risks, but has seemed as if we have been careful. We’ve been wearing our face masks whenever we go out. We’ve tried to respect social distance from others. We’ve limited our excursions into stores.

I have, however, had the luxury living and traveling with my wife. We made all of the trips involved in our move together. We did have the safety of our camper for one of our trips, but we also stayed in the home of her sister and my sister during the pandemic. I’ve had the joy of my grandchildren running across the yard to give me great big hugs. I’ve walked hand-in-hand with my wife along the shore.

I don’t know how I would do with complete isolation. I’ve never had to face it.

Our friends who have been more isolated than we are strong people. The friend who posted on Facebook is an amazing woman with a lot of emotional and mental strength. Other friends who have remained in their homes during the pandemic have done well.

Considering their stories, however, I count myself as among the most fortunate people. Next week we will receive the second doses of vaccine. In the three weeks between shots, I’ve been touched in a loving way every day. Prospects for generous hugs are good for today as well. I have no reason to complain.