Pastor’s Paragraph for August 30, 2020

Pastor's Paragraph for August 30, 2020

AUGUST 30, 2020


Loss of Rituals

Ever since a school bus pulled up to our house two years ago and whisked our son off to school, our daughter has been dreaming of going to kindergarten. Yet this week, the bus will not be coming to our house, and instead, we will be logging onto the computer. Like many families, since March, our family has been struggling with what to do. Do we send the kids to school? Do we keep them home? Will the school keep them safe? What if someone gets sick? Can we visit with grandparents if we send them to school? Can kids really learn online? We’ve read articles late into the night, weighed all the options, and talked to close friends and family who fall on different sides of the issue. Honestly, we understand and agree with everyone. We’ve cried, and we’ve prayed. And on the last day possible, our family decided to keep our children home and enrolled them in the school district’s virtual academy.

Am I sure we made the right decision? No. But we decided to create stability and ritual for our family amid a chaotic and uncertain time. We ultimately decided that, as a dual-income household, we needed to be able to plan, and this was the only option where, regardless of the unknown factors ahead, schooling will not change.

But in that decision, I grieve. I grieve the first day of school rituals that will not happen. I grieve these lost rituals compounded with all of the other rituals that COVID has taken from us. Holidays at home, end-of-year celebrations canceled, summer plans altered, in-person worship canceled. I even miss leisurely grocery shopping. I grieve the significant rituals like not being able to properly say goodbye to family members who have recently died as well as the small rituals of hiring a babysitter and going on a date night.

Diane Butler Bass recently wrote an article about the loss of rituals during this time entitled “Making It Up As We Go.” In this article, she encourages us to continue using rituals to honor rites of passage, even if they look different and aren’t done the way we hoped or wished for. Butler-Bass says that through rituals, we are linked to others, they mark the passing of time, and rituals give value and importance to our lives. “This loss contributes to feeling isolated and sad. Without familiar rhythms and seasons, we have become disconnected from our own lives, other people, and traditions that mattered more than we knew.” I can connect with this idea. It is easy to ignore a birthday or anniversary in COVID because another Zoom event feels exhausting. It’s easy to hide from the canceled Labor Day celebrations by ignoring the day altogether. But rituals are part of what makes us who we are. 

We use rituals in our families, church, and community to give our lives meaning and structure. Sunday mornings look different. Our previous routine of a chaotic morning of getting kids up, dressed and out the door for church, the drive to church, attending Sunday school, worship, and socializing at coffee hour no longer exists. Without that Sunday routine, it is easy to feel lost. It’s easy to watch worship while scrolling through our phones or folding laundry. It’s easy to not enter fully into a place of spiritual depth or connection. For many, Sunday mornings are a way to re-center, realign, and reconnect with God. Through the previous ritual, I would sit quietly, and the Holy Spirit would speak to me through the music, the sermon, the prayers, studies, and conversations. God would reveal to me how I had made mistakes during the previous week and energized me to create a better week ahead. With the absence of Sunday rituals, it’s sometimes harder to listen closely to God’s nudges in our lives. 

I believe deep and meaningful connection can and does happen virtually, but I think it takes more intentional work. It requires us to set aside time to honor and recreate rituals in this new reality. It means putting our phones in our purses (or in our pockets) like we would during in-person worship. It means setting aside household distractions and truly welcoming God into our lives.

I am holding you in prayer as we continue to navigate church, school, work, family, and emotional well-being during this pandemic. I encourage you to find the spiritual rituals that help you stay centered and in line with God’s call for you. The church is working hard to provide many opportunities for in-person and virtual worship, studies, and support groups. We pray that you will continue the rituals that bring you closer to God, others, and your best self during this challenging time. We know it is not easy. But we trust that through God, all things are possible. 

Blessings and Peace,

Jenny Streeter

Rev. Jennifer Streeter
Pastor of Discipleship