The Lord is risen!
Happy Easter, everyone.
I attended a small Episcopal church for more than thirty years until COVID closed it down last year. Or, to be more precise, the bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia closed it down. After Governor Ralph “Coonman” Northam allowed places of worship to reopen (with capacity restrictions), the bishop, in her infinite wisdom, decided that Episcopal congregations would not be safe if people attended services in churches, so she issued a ukase insisting that they remain closed.
St. Paul tells us that “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” (Romans 8:38) But he didn’t know about COVID, which is more powerful than all those things he mentioned. It not only separates Episcopalians from God’s love, it obviously deprives them of their ability to reason.
Our little church resumed services last spring after the governor gave religious gatherings his imprimatur. However, two factions developed within the congregation: those who were sorely afraid of the Wuhan Coronavirus, and those who weren’t. The former group was not content to simply stay home from church; they were adamant that the rest of the congregation also follow the COVID drill — masks, social distancing, no touching each other, no eating together, sanitizing everything after services, etc. Rather than try and talk the second group (which constituted a majority) into compliance, they contacted the bishop, who came down on our church like a ton of bricks. We were shut down, and the church remained closed until Palm Sunday last week. In the two services they’ve had since then, there have been no prayer books in the pews, no singing, no passing the peace, no communion, and no coffee hour. I didn’t attend either service, but I think there were, in addition to the new priest, three or four people in attendance, socially distanced, with their masks on.
Can you imagine celebrating an Easter Eucharist without singing? I can’t, either. That’s why I wasn’t there today.
Beginning last summer, the dissidents of our congregation — who, as I said, constituted a majority — have been meeting clandestinely in the living room of a private home. Our priest, who served the church for a number of years before it closed, is one of them, so we can celebrate a full Eucharist, unmasked, with no social distancing. Our organist is also there; she plays a baby grand piano while we all sing, joyfully and with gusto.
After today’s Easter service we gathered for lunch in the adjacent dining room. It was traditional Easter fare: ham, asparagus, boiled potatoes, and little chocolate bunny candies for dessert.
We all agreed that the Lord has blessed us in our new place of worship.
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Last year I discussed the fact that when the congregation fractured along the fearful/fearless fault line, it also divided itself along a political fault line. I’m pretty sure that those who demanded “safety”, the ones who attended COVID-compliant services last week and today, also voted for Biden. But none of the dissidents who chose to risk communal worship did — all of us were Trump voters, and we can now speak freely about politics over lunch if we want to, without having to worry about triggering any of those present.
It’s an interesting correlation: people who are fearful about the “pandemic” tend to be liberals. Opinion polls confirm the trend; it’s one of the stronger correlations revealed by national surveys. I don’t know why it should be that way, but there it is.
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!