The day that I announced that I was leaving Grace Church in California and that you all announced that you’d called me as your rector was a great but also very long day. Myles and I woke up super early that morning to FaceTime with a realtor who was showing us the house that would become our home. Then I preached at Grace and had lots of bittersweet conversations all morning long. I stayed for a few hours continuing all the work I had to do to tie up loose ends. By the time I got home I was exhausted. Myles was energized. “Do you want to watch the Zoom recording of the St. Clare’s service? The recording is on their website!”

Technically I did really want to watch it! But I was already totally emotionally exhausted by the day, so that was more of an abstract fact that I knew to be true than an actual wish to connect through the screen with my future congregation. So I told Myles sure, and he put it up on the tv screen and fast forwarded to the announcement part. I watched the lovely announcement by Linda and Mac and Christine. I was glad I had seen it, and was grateful it had been such a wonderful announcement, but again, I was a little too tired to take much in, or feel anything. I wasn’t sure where Myles had put the remote, so I just kept sitting there, a little too tired to even turn off the tv. And then John’s postlude wafted through the speaker. You’ll remember that the livestream at that point was just a laptop pointed toward the front of the sanctuary; the quality wasn’t great. But I closed my eyes and listened and just recognized a sense of peace that came over me, from beyond me. Through time and space, I knew I was connected to you all, and to God’s peace. I knew that God was in this exhausting transition, and I knew that it would be okay. After the music was done, I got up, feeling better, feeling ready.

I’m sure we all have a story like that to tell from these pandemic years. Our connectedness, even when it was so disrupted by physical distance and all the stresses of this time, showed itself to be real and powerful. God was in those connections that we forged during the early years of the pandemic and that we continue to forge now, when we worship together, even when we’re divided by time and space.

There’s a temptation, now, to forget those lessons, or to let them be covered over by the opportunity that some of us have to gather in person sometimes. But I think we learned and are learning some absolutely crucial things about spiritual communion, and we should take time to dwell with the mysteries that this disruptive time has invited us to experience more deeply.

I’ll tell you one other thing that’s unusual about St. Clare’s: most people who worship online, now and over the last few years, stay for the entire service! That’s actually not at all typical. Most online services have many or even most folks drop off after the sermon. Also- the people in the sanctuary really care about seeing the names of those who are on Zoom. So I think there’s something that you all have lived into that is powerful and worth exploring.

So, knowing all that: During Lent, instead of praying our usual prayer just before the distribution of communion, John has set to music a poem written by David Clifford, that invites us to reflect on the mystery of communion, the body of Christ that we share. We’ll make sure it’s extra accessible to those of you online so that you can sing at home. It will be a contemplative invitation to consider our connectedness, our communion, with each other, and with Christ. We hope that we can reflect on this slight variation in our practice and talk together about what’s meaningful in the experience of spiritual communion in the coming season.

With care,