I am called to write you a love letter. Like the best love letters, it is budding with affection, sloppy, flattering, unexpected, and filled with prickly and necessary truths. Because I’m the one writing it, I’d like you to picture it in a tiny pink envelope, completely unlabelled, with lip prints where the seal folds down (barely visible, of course, because they’d have to be done with chapstick). Inside is a white card, not a folded piece of paper, but pricey card stock covered in my oversized print.
Never in my time worshiping with Ithaca Monthly Meeting, or in my time among Quakers, or, let’s face it, in much of my time with anyone, have I felt so enmeshed in a person or people. The language we often use of being a part of “the body” of Friends has never been so visceral to me as it is right now. In the course of my interactions the last few months, it is sometimes hard for me to tell whether I am the arm or the leg or the backbone, where my experience begins and someone else’s subsides.
I’ll skip over this next section. There is a rambling list of all your finest attributes. I say something about Light falling on my face when I’m in your Presence. It borders on an eccentric trope, but, hey, it’ so sweet.
But then things take a bit of a turn.
It isn’t the same I claim.
The richness of those first few weeks of this storm have faded. For a time, those who could, drew together to salvage the pieces of our lives together, and those who couldn’t had faith that others would. We wore our fear and our sadness on our faces in a way we rarely allow ourselves. We reached out to each other for support. Many of us lashed ourselves to the mast of this Meeting, and, for many, it kept us afloat.
But, now, I fear our ship is becalmed.
The surprising depth of our initial online worship has waned. The spirit is every bit as available via Zoom as on a mountainside or in a cathedral. But we seem to be moving through a transition, from the immediacy of the past month to the trudge of what still looks like a long time coming. I was recently confronted with a biblical quote, “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to [us] to be exercised in it.” We have been heavily exercised as of late, Friends.
By doing our best to duplicate the Meeting life that was suddenly unavailable to us, were we too focused on the limitations of our circumstances rather then their possibilities? We are different now than we were before all this. Heck, we’re different than we were two weeks ago. How do we reflect those differences in our current choices as a Meeting, both online and off? I am cautioning us against empty forms, Friends. It is the classic “it’s not you, it’s me” cliche.
It gets a little philosophical in this end portion, but I would summarize by saying: In the coming weeks, the head, heart and hands of this body are going to need to continue to reinvent what we’re doing. Tell us what you need. Tell us what isn’t working. Mourn with us the things we’ve lost and ruminate on the things we’re just discovering.