Associate for Spiritual Formation Kelly Moody recently sent the following letter to the participants in Children and Family Ministries at Saint Mark's. Her reflection is relevant, however, not just to parents of young children, but to all of us, and so we are sharing it here.
“Everything has changed.”
We say that in Godly Play at the beginning of a new liturgical year, and it seems appropriate in the wake of the news all gatherings over 50 people are prohibited, restaurants, gyms, libraries and museums are closing, and public and private schools are cancelled until at least April 25. Everything external about the way we go about our daily lives has changed this week, and it’s making waves. The impact of these changes will vary among us, but the anxiety that comes with disruption and uncertainty will accompany each of us to some degree. That is to be expected, and I pray that we will be divinely gentle with ourselves and one another as we live into a new reality, and seek creative ways to support the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of our children and ourselves.
Though these external changes to our daily lives are temporary, we ourselves will be changed during this season, too. We will be formed by the cessation of gathering and activity in deep ways. It is always true that we are formed by our attention and action, but perhaps it’s easier to notice in unusual times like these- times of enforced ceasing.
As members of the Church, the Body of Christ, we have a model for living fully in the face of disruption, and seeing and celebrating God's presence in hard places. It is the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and the Eucharistic shape of our weekly worship. And as it turns out, it is the pattern of our liturgical calendar, too, which conveniently locates us now in the season of Lent, a time to cease. Every year in Lent, we remove certain things from our worship space and simplify our liturgy. We set aside aspects of celebration and feasting and distraction in order to turn our attention to God’s still, small voice. We are doing that in far more drastic ways this year! But we do so with intention each year to follow Jesus’s path of preparation for surrendering his life on the cross, knowing transformation will come through surrender, somehow. And so, we have a unique opportunity this year to practice surrender.
The question is, to what, or to whom will I surrender?
I am here to say that until this week, I had not yet been very intentional about surrendering to anything more courageous than the entropy of my own overcrowded and busy life this Lenten season. I'd even taken on too many Lenten disciplines! Truth be told, sometimes our churches become markets of frenetic activity, too, just like the rest of the world.
But not this year. This year we are given the gift of a remarkable ceasing. Folded into the worldwide disruption of COVID-19 is an opportunity to make a different Lenten choice; to show up to our own formation differently and listen to the still, small voice of God calling us gently and persistently to be still and know, and to be changed by that knowing.
The path before us is a bit rocky, but it is not uncharted. We are in the company of Christians throughout time who have found their way through disappointments and unexpected challenges by the light of Christ, in the presence of Christ, and with the love Christ. We are in the company of one another, and we will continue to be formed by our faith every time we gather for prayer and worship by livestream, or make contact with one another by phone, or meet together by Zoom in the weeks ahead.
And, we are in the company of Christ, now and forever. That will not change!
Peace to you and your families.