June 5th is Pentecost Sunday. I love Pentecost, that feast day when the Church annually celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the fledgling church (Acts 2), bridging divisions of language and culture to bring people together in the good news of Jesus Christ.
A while back on Maundy Thursday we recalled Jesus’ new commandment to his followers: “Love each other.” (John 13:34)
Here we are now, at the conclusion of the Great Fifty Days of Easter, lifting up our pentecostal prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit.” We pray the Spirit may continue to fall fresh on us, to inspire us to continue and grow in the love that Jesus showed us and calls us to share with one another.
I can’t think of a more fitting local church family to celebrate Pentecost than Grace. The signs of the Holy Spirit’s work are everywhere in our parish. People from all over the world call Grace home. We are regularly inspired to be open to the change that comes from including more and more folks among us. We boldly try new things in order to step deeper into God’s future for us. And, most importantly, we keep growing in our love for one another: learning from our mistakes, making amends when we have offended someone, reaching to those unable to be present with us, and sticking together with little regard for our differences or disagreements.
God is doing in us what God dreams for the whole world: building a community on the foundation of God’s eternal, unconditional and redemptive love shown by Jesus. I do not waver in my conviction that local churches built up as outposts of the Love of Jesus Christ in this world are the front lines of God’s work to save the world from all sin. The Holy Spirit—God’s very life flowing through us—is what makes it all possible.
You know, Grace does church the hard way. Lots of local churches allow themselves to get divided off into “right and left” or “voted this way or voted that way” or “this kind of music or that kind of music” or “this color or that color” or “rich or poor” or a myriad other categories that can be used to slice and dice the Body of Christ to look more like the sin-sick world.
We don’t do that. We stay together, with God’s help. We keep loving one another when someone says something we disagree with or that makes us uncomfortable, or maybe even says something that hurts us a little. We lean into our relationships with one another and allow loving Christian community to form us for living lovingly in the wide world. With God’s grace, we find loving ways to speak our truth to each other so that we can help one another grow. And we go out these red doors to love and serve the Lord, seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Is this pollyannish? Yes. It’s too good to be true, too good to last, and too far fetched to build a church on. EXCEPT: the promise of Pentecost is that God comes and does among us what we cannot imagine or create or sustain for ourselves. If God dreams it—and God does—then God will make it happen in and through us.
THIS is the miracle of Pentecost!
GRACE is a miracle of Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit is at work among us, we are bound together in mutual affection, sticking together through thick and thin. The Spirit helps us stay together in spite of all the worldly forces trying to pull people apart.
I look forward to celebrating this miracle with you on Pentecost Sunday. And in the season after Pentecost, I can’t wait to see how God continues to build us into a people of Love’s way, for the sake of the world.
In peace, Scott+
As a pianist, I play music almost only by ear. (I can read notes, but have an impossible time translating the information to my fingers!) And I love playing improvisationally more than playing anything already written down or recorded somewhere else. Through this approach to music-making, I've found a unique relationship with the word "yes," because there is great creative energy in listening closely, feeling deeply, and playing courageously (even when not knowing exactly where it all will go).
As I look back over the last four years of our life together as priest and people, I see that we have learned some of these same lessons again on the road we've traveled. (cont. p. 3)
The Rev. Sam Wells, a theologian, writer, and priest in the Church of England, has said a great deal about the role of improvisation, primarily in theater, relating to theology, ethics and church. Wells says, “The heart of improvisation is the ability to keep the story going. Accepting refers to any response that accepts the premise of another actor’s “offer” — whether that offer be physical or verbal. Actors have to learn to say “yes” even when to do so seems impossible, improper, or dangerous” (Originally a sermon preached by Wells on Oct. 1, 2006, in Duke University Chapel).
Together with God and one another, we have kept the story of Grace going by saying “yes” a LOT of times. We’ve tried many new things, and we’ve become a safer place to try even more into the future. We’ve learned that some experiments stick for a long time, some for a short time, and some fall flat.
We’ve said yes, even when the offer might not be exactly what we imagine or think we want. We’ve said yes to welcoming online worshipers, even though it feels different than community used to. We’ve said yes to new music and musicians, even though we miss old friends and the informality of our pre-pandemic music team. We’ve said yes to new chairs, even though they might not be as comfortable as we wish or the color we like or as traditional as we prefer. And, we’ve said yes to new groups using our inside and outside spaces, even though it can be inconvenient and unsettling to share.
Each of these “yesses” – and so many more – have brought us new opportunities and gifts, even as they also represent change and loss of what used to be.
I love the idea of “accepting” whatever comes to us as an opportunity or an “offer.” I love the idea of working together to become people who say yes as much as possible, because “yes” can lead us to more growth, joy, and anticipation for what may come next. I know our culture of accepting offers is largely responsible for the growth and return to parish status we’ve recently celebrated as Grace.
As we draw near to the season of Easter, we are reminded that an extreme example of acceptance—our Lord Jesus accepting suffering and death in solidarity with human sin and sickness—leads to the brilliant new possibility of abundant and everlasting life for all of creation. The glorious resurrection of Jesus makes a way for God’s yes to come to all of us – we are never turned away, never thwarted by the brokenness we know in ourselves and the world around us, never blocked from entering into the life for which we have been made and has now been made possible for everyone.
I pray that as we move forward into Easter as the parish of Grace, God will increase our openness and generosity and our YES. In this, may we become people who are always open to opportunities and offers to serve God, one another, and our neighbors.
It was Advent of 2017 when I first began discerning God’s call to serve as the next Vicar of Grace. There is no hint of hyperbole in me saying that I knew immediately I wanted to come and be in community with this congregation. The process of discernment had more to do with my asking the question of whether God’s will and my desire actually aligned. I am so grateful that I, and the people of Grace, and Bishop Doyle all agreed God was calling me to this people and place.
As I was talking with your Bishop’s Committee during that time of discernment, they shared with me many of the hard things that Grace had endured (and survived!) up to that point. There had been multiple financial hardships, loss of dedicated members, conflict, the departure of a beloved priest, a hurricane, and deferred maintenance on the building. In the retelling of it all, I noticed something in the voice and tone of those who spoke: a faithful resolve. There was, for sure, disappointment, discouragement, a worry for the future. But it was all seasoned with faith and resolution that God’s future included the continuing life and ministry of Grace Episcopal Church in Southwest Houston.
Since 2010, this congregation has been a mission of the Diocese of Texas called “Grace.” Prior to that, it was a parish in the diocese called “St. George and St. Patrick Episcopal Church” (often known as “Two Saints”). Even further back to the late-1950’s, there were two congregations —one on W. Bellfort called St. George and another in Westbury called St. Patrick.
When the decision was made to become Grace and a mission of the diocese, both actions signified a deeper commitment to doing whatever it would take to survive. As a mission, Grace had access to generous financial support from the Diocese of Texas. We also received a new vicar at that time, The Rev. Gena Davis, who led us through some difficult decision-making and the hard work of laying a foundation for renewal and growth. Of course, we also lost some of the autonomy and power for self-determination that a parish enjoys. As a mission, we have been directly under the supervision of the Bishop and at times have been reminded of the limits of that status — our representation at Diocesan Council has been 1 delegate instead of the 4 a parish gets; our congregational leaders are elected only with the Bishop’s approval, and our future is more immanently in the hands of the Bishop than is the case for a parish.
These eleven years a mission have given us the breathing room to get many aspects of our life and ministry back on a sustainable path. Our congregation is growing with new members and new vision; our finances have stabilized, our building and campus have been improved with major issues of deferred maintenance addressed, our staff has solidified as a team, and our people are inspired with hope for service.
Now we are celebrating one of our most successful pledge campaigns in recent history. We exceeded our 2022 pledge goal on DECEMBER 1 ! More than 20 increased pledges and 6 new pledges show that we are growing both in commitment and new members of our community. I want to thank Doward Hudlow for his energizing and able leadership of the campaign this year, along with all those on the Stewardship Committee. And—thank YOU for giving!
Now is the time for Grace to become a parish. The Bishop has approved our request to go for a vote before Diocesan Council on February 26, 2022. If/when it passes, we will immediately be seated as a parish for the remainder of business at Council. In January, we will provisionally elect a vestry at our annual meeting that will go into office upon our return to parish status. And, your priest in charge will be called a “rector” instead of a “vicar.”
Many of these changes may feel like window dressing, but I assure you they signify a big step into a new season where we will all explore creative ways of sharing leadership, expanding capacity, growing ministry and moving forward together into God’s dreams for us.
In the coming weeks, we will take time to reflect, celebrate, imagine and plan for future of the Parish of Grace. (Who wants to plan the PARTY?!)
I am in awe of all that God is doing in and through us, and I am full of faith in the God who is calling us forward. As we move through Advent and into the Christmas and Epiphany seasons, let us be mindful that God can and does bring new life into desperate and desolate place. Our own existence as the Parish of Grace will be a sign of this.
“We get to give to get to give to get to give.” – John Wimber
I love to give things away. Personally, I find so much freedom in my life by holding onto “the stuff” very loosely. I think I’ve always been wired this way, even when I didn’t have much. Do I like nice stuff? Oh, you know that I do. Count me in for rich food, close up seats at concerts, high thread count in my sheets, and getting extra legroom on flights to new faraway places. I like the good life better, probably, than I should. It wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit it.
I have discovered a really important component of my truly enjoying life. It’s a truth that has held up in times of plenty and in leaner seasons, too. The only way I can really take pleasure in having stuff is to hold it very loosely, share liberally, and give thanks.
I know that not everyone is wired this way. And that’s a good thing. My tendency to “give away the farm” has led to more than one conversation in my marriage when more prudence was warranted. Thankfully, I have family and friends who are wise and sensible managers, good savers, more strategic in the allocation of resources. We give balance to each other’s tendencies and are all better for it. When we share a value of generosity, and live out that value according to each of our unique talents, personalities, and insights, then resources can go even further to meet needs and touch lives.
I am a huge fan of Stewardship season in the church (or, may I say, parish!). It is a time for each of us to assess our unique relationships with money and with stuff. It is a time for each of us to challenge ourselves in generosity: to give toward causes and communities that matter to us and help us multiply our own commitments to sowing seeds of good in the world.
I truly hope that you will count your church community among those causes worthy of faithful generosity next year. Honestly, I think it would be awesome if every single household or family who calls Grace home would pledge to give something in support of our wonderful church parish in 2022. Annual pledges at Grace always range in dollar amounts from $50 into the thousands. There is room in that spread for each of us, according to our resources, or other commitments, and our dedication to the mission and values of Grace. We are grateful for every pledge, whatever size, because they support our life together and service to neighbors throughout Southwest Houston! I think it’s important to start somewhere and make an investment that is part of saying “yes” to Grace and belonging in this loving community.
Please join me in holding stuff loosely. Please join me in a commitment to living generously. Please join me in supporting Grace with a pledge for 2022.
“You must be doers of the word and not only hearers...” James 1.22
“How much longer are we stuck with this Bible translation?!”
Last week, I fielded another strongly-worded version of the question that comes up many times these days. If you’ve had your own questions or experienced visceral reactions (negative, even) amidst our three-year lectionary journey through the Common English Bible translation, rest assured that your perspective on the CEB has likely been well-represented!
I admit, the critiques are received loud and clear. In fact, I often agree with them. It can be jarring to hear some of our most familiar and beloved passages from Holy Scripture translated using different words or phrases from the familiar translations, like the New Revised Standard or even the King James/Authorized.
(A couple weeks ago, I remember it was the overly vernacular phrase, “Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers,” translated from Ephesians, that really got this person’s goat. Others have noted in the past that the familiar phrase “Son of Man” is always translated in the CEB as “The Human One.” This is troubling to some, perhaps feeling that it reduces Jesus’ divine nature just a little too much.)
On August 29, we read in Mark’s Gospel that when the religious leaders confront Jesus that his disciples aren’t following their ritual practices, he responds by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “Isaiah really knew what he was talking about, when he prophesied about you hypocrites!”
These sorts of colloquial translations include casual phrases, informal style with lots of contractions, and speech patterns that can come off as truly anachronistic when reading back into 1st or 2nd century texts, or even further back to Before the Common Era (BCE).
Besides all that, I think we just tend to find comfort in the steadiness of words from a single translation, washing over us, undergirding us, reassuring us in trying, unsteady, uncertain times. (We Episcopalians are, after all, kind of known for our ritual forms and repetitive practices!)
You may not be aware that we have a few Bible translations authorized for use in the Episcopal Church. Some of them are more historic or traditional translations, like the King James and the Revised Standard versions, now rendered less reliable by more recent archeologic discoveries, scholarship, and emerging dynamics in an evolving modern society. The most common translation currently in use, is the one we are used to reading here at Grace – the New Revised Standard Version. It has been available since 1989. The NRSV drew newly discovered ancient manuscripts for its basis, and sought to render as much of the text as possible in gender-inclusive language.
The Common English Bible is a very recent translation, being released just a decade ago. It was written to be accessible to more people, to be read, heard and understood by a wider audience. The language choices of the CEB were geared toward a 7th grade reading level. Hence, the contractions and casual phrases, and more common word choices.
I doubt at this point I have won many doubters over to the side of the CEB. And don’t worry, we are getting closer and closer to the end of “Year B” and will soon begin our final year in this translation before returning to the well-worn grooves of the NRSV.
But I also need to say this about our experiment. The fact that we are noticing things we don’t like and hearing the words of the Bible in new ways; the fact that folks are speaking up and pointing things out; the experience of our stuttering and stumbling over the unfamiliar or grating words or phrases in this different translation is really kind of the point! And your responses show us that we are right on track with this endeavor.
Because we hear in Scripture, and especially in the letter of James *from which we’ll be reading over the next several Sundays) that there is an essential, inextricable relationship between faith, action, and words. What we hear and what we say matter, but how much they matter to US shows up in how we act toward others. And that’s where our true faith is revealed – in how we live out our lives, in what we do.
And James goes on in Chapter 1 to offer examples of the kind of actions that look like what we hear from Jesus/what we often SAY about Jesus: being good listeners, holding back our opinions and our own indignation so that we can better understand and empathize others; being humble and doing right; taking care of those who are vulnerable and alone.
These are the kinds of matters we are called to care about. These are the priorities that would inspire faithful activity by followers of Jesus. These are the ways that our words and intentions to follow Jesus can work themselves out in our lives.
I want to say something else, too, about a dynamic showing up in our culture these days: something very dangerous is happening, turning the words&actions relationship on its head. Some folks are using words to dismiss, diminish, or discredit well-intentioned actions for goodness and justice by faithful people.
We hear a lot in the news and commentary about “ woke “ culture. The term didn’t originate as a derogatory thing, but it sure has been co-opted as a weapon – often against folks trying to do the right things and work to move society toward righteousness for all: those fighting for equal rights for queer and trans people, or for voting rights (especially in marginalized communities), or for economic justice for those hardest hit by the pandemic; or for those who advocate for love of neighbor by getting vaccinated or masking up; or for those who fight against drug culture and advocate for those in addiction, or for those who need food to eat and a safe place to lay their heads tonight (no matter where they are from or what they look like or how they believe or what choices may have led to their not having a home).
Friends, we say as Christians that we follow Jesus. And in saying that we follow Jesus we make a commitment to do things like Jesus would do—to work for a good and just world like Jesus did, and like he calls us to.
When we hear the words of Scripture in new and surprising ways, my prayer is that we ingest and digest God’s Word to activate our faith in this world. It can make our word count for more, because we’ll be doing things that look like the faith we profess.
When we do move from our words of faith into action, I pray that we’ll keep going forward, committed to the cause of love in all we do, no matter what the cost.
Meanwhile, let’s keep reading the CEB. Let’s keep getting hung up on words and phrases we don’t like. Let’s keep talking to each other about it—complaining, even! Because the fact that we are talking about what we’re hearing means that we might have a better chance to be transformed by it and to become doers and not only hearers of the word.
“Love is the Stuff of God”
On May 30, the church celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. It is the annual Christian festival dedicated to the deepest mystery of who God is: one God, Three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The operative word is “mystery.” No one can explain it or even fathom this distinctness of persons within the unity of God. The best we can do is consider it, ponder it, try to name it, seek to understand why it even matters in Christian theology.
Over the years, I have meditated on St. John’s truth in his First letter, saying that “God is love” (1 John 4.7). I believe that somehow the Love that is God is the stuff of God. For sure, it must be a love that is purer, deeper, more expansive and beyond encompassing any human experience or conception of love in this mortal life. The mystery of the Trinity invites us to believe this is possible--that God is bigger than we are, and not one made in our own image; that God’s love is bigger, too. So much beyond our experience and reason and even imagination.
In God’s wondrous and mystical love, there is a unity of persons. A constant, self-giving, generative love that must have been active when all things came to be. This love calls to us, calls us to be swept up into it and to be drawn closer and closer to God, and to one another.
St. John: “Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love.”
Out of the mystery of who God is, flows the heart of what it means to be Christians in community. Our movement into the love of God is the only thing that can form and transform us into people who love.
As we are moving back into physical presence with one another in worship and fellowship, this word to us, “lets love one another,” is in God’s call back together. I know we are missing our rituals and songs and the physical house of our congregation. But, even more, I’m hearing that we are missing ONE ANOTHER. And this is at the center of what we must be about in these coming days of our regathering. Let’s be looking for new ways to get together, so share common life, to learn about one another and grow in love for each other. During the summer, I urge and encourage each of us to:
God is love. And God calls us to share together in that love, to be formed into a people who are known by their loving.
Vicar’s Report to the People of Grace Episcopal Church
Dear People of Grace Episcopal Church:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we gathered last year on January 19, 2020, our Annual Meeting was alive with excitement, hope and vision. The Parish Hall was so full of people that we had to put out more chairs! We celebrated a record pledge campaign and increasing average Sunday attendance; we welcomed the newly confirmed, newly baptized and newly transferred in; we looked forward to major new campus improvement projects; we marveled in the banner year that 2019 was for our school.
To be sure, the Coronavirus pandemic quickly extinguished excitement, stymied progress toward our vision, and threatened our school’s existence. In the interest of being honest, we must admit all of that is true. However, this is not all of the story. We were ready for the difficult year that 2020 would prove to be.
I invite us to recall the account of Joseph in the book of Genesis. After a great deal of personal hardship, Joseph is eventually promoted in Egypt to oversee planning for the coming famine, of which Pharaoh’s dream has foretold. Seven good years of harvest afford the ability to store grain up for lean times. The Egyptians weather seven subsequent years of drought and scarcity, and even provide for some of their neighbors, because of the good years that had come before. God is not surprised by famine. God is not surprised by pandemic.
When I joined this community almost three years ago, we were in a very different place in terms of finances, energy and vision. We could wonder how Grace might have fared, had the experience of 2020 landed in 2018 or 2019. But it didn’t; and we have been able to not only survive but in some ways thrive during these tumultuous times.
In 2020, the people of Grace contributed more than $4000 and countless car loads of nonperishable food to our neighbors through Braes Interfaith Ministries. We hosted 4 blood drives in Parish Hall to support the sick and suffering with the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. Through the Vicar’s Discretionary Account, thousands of dollars have been distributed to those experiencing financial hardship as a result of the global pandemic. Our campus is a place of hospitality during the era of social distancing: neighbors find refreshment in our green spaces, playing soccer, having picnics, running their dogs; Camp Gladiator workouts happening twice per week in our parking lot; local groups and families grow their own fresh food in our Community Garden.
We have continued to worship. Through generous gifts from people of Grace and the Diocese of Texas we have built technological infrastructure to support online worship well into the future. While we currently pre-record our Sunday morning services, new cameras, lighting and computer software will allow us to broadcast future live services directly to the internet for those unable to join us in person. Our reach beyond the walls of Grace will be able to continue into the future because of the impetus for these upgrades during the pandemic. Our music ministry has adapted to accommodate both the limited availability of choir & instrumentalists and the need for consistency in our online presence. Investments in our music budget have afforded an important new outreach – support of local musicians during a time when many other performance opportunities have dried up. We are blessed by the wonderful musicianship of those who join us, and we bless them during this time of “famine.” We also continue to offer special worship opportunities on Zoom for folks to gather in a less formal way to pray and grow together. We are blessed with beautiful outdoor spaces, including the crown jewel of our community – The Tree of Life Labyrinth and garden. This has been a wonderful space to gather for School Chapels, Sunday 4:00 services, and even a wedding! The Labyrinth Garden, along with our parking lots, have hosted worship as we’ve begun to migrate back to campus for some live gatherings. The refurbished “cross on the hill” marks a sacred space at the east end of our campus for more public gatherings.
While we have needed to stay physically apart, perhaps the greatest challenge has been in continuing to foster rich and meaningful connection. A sense of belonging is arguably the most important component of church participation and membership. Newer members may have been disproportionately hindered in finding these connections in a time of distance. Our efforts in this area have certainly centered around Zoom and training to use this and other technology. I am incredibly proud of our members, especially our legacy members, for sticking with it and learning to navigate the online world to stay in community. We have migrated Sunday School, special series like Contemplative Practices and Compline, weekly meetups for Women and Men, Daughters of the King, Church & School Governance meetings, Worship Participation (readers, prayer leaders, responders, preachers), and much more all to Zoom in order to continue fostering community. We look forward to the day when some of these activities can again take place in person; and we also know that online connection is here to stay. Zoom (or some alternative meeting technology) will be an ongoing part of our community’s life in the years to come. Also, members of our Bishop’s Committee will continue to reach out via phone calls, as they did in 2020.
Building on the Legacy
In 2020, we celebrated our community’s first “Ten Years of Grace.” It was an important milestone to mark God’s presence with us, leading us into renewed ministry and mission. In 2021, our theme will be “Building on the Legacy.” In this coming year, we will be intentional about honoring and preserving the legacy of those faithful saints on whose shoulders we stand as we work with God to build a church for the future. Building on their work, we will look forward into a post-pandemic world to imagine with God how our church will evolve and grow in new ways.
I am grateful to be with you in this life of faith, now entering my fourth year together with you as Vicar. What a gift to have one another in these trying times!
The Rev. R. Scott Painter, Vicar
June 26, 2020
Dear People of Grace,
Your Wardens and I have been hard at work for the last several weeks putting a plan for us to safely regather for in-person worship. Our “Imagine Regathering” plan has been approved by Bishop Monterroso. We have been looking forward to our first opportunity for public worship since mid-March, tentatively scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 12.
Yet, I must share with you that we will need to wait a little longer. I received a letter from Bishop Monterroso last week, asking that congregations in the Houston area suspend in-person gatherings until the current surge in the COVID-19 situation improves. Also announced was the postponement of the Deacon's Ordination service scheduled for this coming Saturday at Christ Church Cathedral. The delay in this ordination impacts people close to our congregation: Marcia Sadberry, our former seminarian intern, and Luz Cabrera Montes, granddaughter-in-law to Padre Alejandro and cousin to Ellis. Once we know the new date of the ordination service, we will be sure you are informed.
As I have said from the beginning, our decision to say apart as a congregation is motivated by love for one another; not by fear. We will continue to be leaders in the community, examples of self-sacrifice for the good of others. Out of love for our neighbor, I ask that we all continue to be diligently conscientious about contributing to public health during pandemic: we should be staying home as much as we possibly can, wearing masks when we must be out and about, maintaining a minimum 6 ft social distance from anyone not living in our homes, and washing our hands and sanitizing thoroughly. As Christians, the central event of our faith is the total sacrifice of our Saviour for the sake of all. Our commitment to follow Jesus means, at a very minimum, that we will always choose our own inconvenience for the good of others.
All of this leads me to announcing, sadly, that we will not regather, as planned, on July 12th for in-person worship. Please know that we continue to monitor the data coming out of the CDC, state & local governments, The Houston Medical Center, and any other credible scientific information we can obtain and absorb. As soon as the data supports physical regathering as the reasonably safe, responsible, and LOVING thing for us to do, an announcement will be made. Our hope beyond certainty is that we may regather in August.
I am pleased to share with you that we are moving forward with a contract to assemble, install, and train our team to use higher quality technology for our video recording and editing efforts around weekly online worship. These improvements will be a great help to us during this time apart, but they will also be able to support our commitment to continuing our online worship presence into the future, even after we have begun to gather at the church for worship once again. This work is being made possible in large part by an anticipated grant from the Diocese of Texas and a generous donation by a member of the Grace family.
I am so proud of our church community and how we have tenaciously stuck together during this unprecedentedly trying time. Please take time this week and reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in the last couple of months. Check in on them. Pray with them. Ask if you might be able to help one another in some way. Continue in the way of love.
With you on the way,
I was recently reminded by a colleague about the Italian origins of the word quarantine. Literally meaning, “the span of forty days,” the word was used in the Middle Ages to describe the keeping of ships waiting off port for 40 days to prevent latent cases of plague coming on shore.
Of course, the number of forty is familiar to readers of the Bible. The number forty is always used to describe a time of exile, wandering, loneliness, and testing. We recall the story of Noah, when the rain fell for forty days and nights, forcing Noah and his family to be at sea until the storms calmed and new life began to spring forth; and, the story of the Israelite sojourn in the wilderness for forty years, between escape from Egyptian captivity and entrance into the Promised Land; and, of course, the forty days and nights after his baptism that Jesus stayed alone in the wilderness, tempted and tested, before starting his public ministry.
In these biblical stories of quarantine, time is spent apart: a time of consecrating self and community to God and God’s purposes in the world.