We Were In It Together
I came to St. Ann’s, Woodstock in the summer of 2018 after graduating from seminary. St. Ann’s is my first call as a priest, and I work half-time (my husband and I are foster parents to six children, so that takes up more than the other half of my time). In my first year at St. Ann’s, things were going great: the parish felt re-energized, as it often does when a new priest arrives, and attendance was up. We were starting new initiatives, and really felt like we were building momentum. Then the pandemic hit, and shortly after Ash Wednesday of 2020, about a year and a half into my ministry as a priest, we closed the church to public worship and moved online.
St. Ann’s entered the pandemic as a small but energetic parish. We were in it together, and it showed. People reached out to one another, cared for one another, sought to help each other. As we moved services from in-person to livestream (at first with just an iPhone, later with a bit better equipment), our members engaged online, and helped those who aren’t tech-savvy get online. And most importantly, our people were – and continue to be – financially generous. We basically tripled the amount of funds flowing from the church out into the community.
I have been amazed at this community.
But as the pandemic wears on, I have to be honest and say that it feels like we’ve hit a bit of a collective wall. We are of course still worshiping together online (and resuming small in-person services this Sunday), and we are still feeding our neighbors, and we are making plans for the future, but it all feels harder. The momentum is wearing out. I say that not to complain, but to acknowledge the reality: this is hard. It’s still hard, even a year in, and perhaps it’s harder.
Personally, I have found it impossible to manage six children during lockdown (and then hybrid learning) and also be fully present to my congregation. Emails go unanswered, balls get dropped. Deadlines are missed. Daycare opens, then has to close again for two weeks. We get in a rhythm with remote learning, and then hybrid learning begins, changing everyone’s schedule. There is no catching up. There was a lot of patience for parents at the beginning of the pandemic, but I can feel the collective patience wearing thin, right when it is actually the hardest to parent during the pandemic.
Perhaps, then, it’s appropriate that my community and I are hitting this wall as we begin Lent. Perhaps this can be a time when we are reminded, when I can be reminded, that it doesn’t all depend on me. That it is OK to fail and to fall behind and to mess up. That it is OK to rest and to wait for Easter.
St. Ann’s will survive this, and will come out stronger, more focused, more Gospel-centered. My family and I will survive this, and hopefully we will come out stronger. But we won’t do it alone; we rely utterly on God and one another.