It’s difficult to find a silver lining in a pandemic.
COVID-19 has taken so much away – lives and livelihoods. It’s meant shut-ins who, pre-pandemic, looked forward to visits from family and friends have had even that taken away. Masks cover droplets but they also cover smiles, muffle sound. Singing, extending a handshake or a hug, the opportunity to gather in person, unmasked, side by side for worship have all been nixed. We’ve lost, for a time, a way of life we had taken for granted.
The Very Rev. Ken Weldon, Rector of St. John’s, Florence, reflected the feelings of many when he said, “It’s just hard for everybody. It’s been nice to spend more time with our families, but we miss our church families, too. We worship a God who is incarnate. He took on flesh. We miss our people.”
There have, however, been small gifts that have come through this time. Perhaps you’ve gotten to know your neighbors better. Most likely, you’ve learned some new computer skills. You may have, through Zoom, reconnected with family or friends who live far away.
David Rowe, a seminarian who serves at The Church of the Good Shepherd, Charleston, noted an unexpected benefit. “One of the good things we’ve seen,” he said, “is that having one combined outdoor service means people who usually attend separate worship services have been worshipping side by side. It’s been a good way to foster relationships, albeit at a distance, with people who, before, would only bump into each other in passing.”
Weldon, too, noted a benefit. “One thing that’s been positive is our online service,” he said. “It’s a new thing. It’s not only being viewed by our people who would normally attend church, but it’s allowed us to reach out to former parishioners, those who’ve moved away and live in other places. We’ve even got people who were once in our youth group joining us for worship. Once we get over this, we’re planning on continuing to do an online service.”
One of the most moving stories comes from Donna Sanders Wooten, a member of Saint James, James Island. She wrote about the lifeline the online services and Bible studies have been for her.
“I had lost my way,” she writes. “I lost my mom and, two years later, we lost our 29-year-old son on my mother’s birthday. These are not acceptable reasons for being angry with God, but I couldn’t go to church or even a funeral without falling apart. Slowly I found myself looking for the Holy Spirit again.
“I teach in the Dayschool at Saint James Church but, due to COVID, we closed the Dayschool. I was home alone every day, because my husband and other son are both essential workers.
“Arthur Jenkins, the pastor at Saint James, along with our assistant pastors, Elizabeth Bumpas and Louise Weld, were leading Bible studies every day, online. I loved it and grew to need it every day. If they were delayed due to tech issues, I felt very anxious. They always came through for me and our Saint James church family. I watched two services online every Sunday feeling joyful.
“Pentecost Sunday I was watching on my phone on my back porch. I was alone. Arthur gave a wonderful sermon about the Holy Spirit. I felt chills and butterflies in my chest. My health was fine. I started crying with flowing tears of joy. I knew in that moment, that the Holy Spirit had filled my body and soul. I couldn’t contain the love I felt. I had been studying the Bible every day over the past four months. God touched me, and now, I can’t learn enough.
By Joy Hunter
(Image by David Rowe)