The virus, racism, and a sabbatical

Monday Meditation 2020 June 22


Greetings, St. Peter’s –


Allow me to share a recent family story, will you? It’s got me thinking about a lot of things…


Last night, for Father’s Day, our family was together for the first time since mid-March, when the virus shut so many things down. We decided we felt ok with being outside. With distance. For a short time. (We all make our own choices for our own reasons, and this is where we are.) We sat down to eat, and after singing “The Johnny Appleseed Song,” we were enjoying various dishes. Conversation was good. Our smiles were authentic.


And then, our four-year-old said, “Mommy, can we pray for Ms. Tiana?” I wondered why we needed to pray at that moment. I asked if we could just do it at bedtime. I tried to continue on with the meal and enjoy the family gathering. I just wanted to stay in the moment. I really didn’t want to pray again.


But our child wasn’t having it. Her preschool closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and after a few weeks, we received word that it was never opening again. There would be no return to “her” school. She wouldn’t get to be in the Stars class with Ms. Tiana again. We’ve all been sad about it, and we did get to see Ms. Tiana and another teacher virtually once, but it wasn’t the same.

Tess even asked to go to the parking lot of her old school to look through the windows one last time, and we did… with masks on. Ours was a gritty daycare. Nothing fancy, but full of truly loving people. There’s an emptiness in leaving a place you love.

Last night, our child persisted, “No, Mommy. Now. I want to pray for Ms. Tiana now.” I will confess to being a bit exasperated. We all get that way sometimes. It’s not that I didn’t want to pray for Ms. Tiana; I just wanted to do it later. I didn’t even look at the rest of my family. After a few exchanges with my child, I just said, “OK, fine. We will pray.” And I prayed for Ms. Tiana. I felt a little awkward interrupting our family’s Father’s Day dinner for this prayer, but we all prayed, and we moved on. Our child seemed satisfied.

Then, late last night, I emailed Ms. Tiana just to let her know that we had prayed for her and that we hoped her job search was going well. She responded almost immediately. “Awww...It’s amazing how God sends comfort through others. It just happened to be my Tess. I was feeling a little down because of Father’s Day. My dad passed away last month due to Covid, so it was a little difficult. This message came right on time and warmed my heart. Please let Tess know that I miss her so much and I know she will do great at her new school. Please give her a hug for me.”

I teared up. This virus stinks. It closed our beloved preschool, but more importantly, it is taking the lives of so many… and the numbers are higher in Communities of Color, Ms. Tiana’s family included. I hate that this virus is hurting so many people. I also hate that systemic injustices mean that some people are far more at risk than others. I’m sad that I can’t be with all of you to share this story in person, and I’m sad that I couldn’t just call up my colleague and tell her the story.

Cars lined up in the parking lot to send Becca off to her sabbatical with good wishes (and so many baked goods.)


Because… The Virus. And Racism.  And Sabbatical. These are not at all the same things, but they collided for me yesterday. We had an absolutely WONDERFUL send off for our Associate Pastor of Missions & Education, Becca Lockwood. Over 100 of you drove through our parking lot and safely wished her well on her journey of renewal and rest. It was glorious. You made funny signs for your cars, dropped off “so many baked goods” (Becca’s words) when we were trying to give YOU the cookies, and brought a huge amount of food/hygiene items for the food pantry.


(It took multiple boxes to get them all to their destination!) Many of you sported rainbows for Pride as well. There were tears, and there was laughter. Way to go, Church!



So yesterday was both amazing and painful. It was a “both/and” kind of day. I think that’s often what faith is about: the both/ands. It’s certainly what this virus season is about… both being safe and taking risks. Both keeping distant and wearing masks. Both returning to some things and staying away from others. Both praying when you want to and when you must. Both understanding some things and learning that you just don’t know that much about other things. This summer seems to be a both/and kind of time, and I think Jesus knew all about those times.


Becca Lockwood, wearing one of her favorite Harry Potter t-shirts that reads, "No one should live in a closet."


For our family, in various ways, today marks a new beginning – a both/and sort of day. We dropped our kid off at a new preschool, and it’s truly bittersweet. One of us is happily meeting new friends and enjoying a new rhythm to her day. The other two of us are learning to embrace an uninterrupted workday for the first time in months. One of us is working without her colleague. It’s oddly quiet in our house. And the dog is… well… just fine.


In all of this, I am hopeful. In the many layers of this unpolished retelling of a story from less than 24 hours ago, I am finding hope. If we can develop relationships with new teachers like we did with Ms. Tiana – relationships that cause us to pray for people at just the right moment – our family will be ok. If Becca can use this sabbatical time to renew like I was able to last fall, she’ll be ok.

Various lay leaders collected donated food and hygiene products for a local food pantry.

Moreover, if we, as a congregation, can do some of that same work of renewal, we, too, will be changed, and we’ll be ok. And if we can all work to see the injustices of this world a little differently, more people will be ok… and that’s the point of being a part of a church, right? To make the lives of others just a little bit better by nurturing your own faith and serving others?



This week, if you feel the urge to pray for someone, will you please just do it? Let your dinner be interrupted, allow the prayer to have words (or not), and dwell in the possibility that maybe, just maybe, our faith and our lives will be transformed if we continue to risk being in relationship in new ways, even when it hurts a little bit that what once was can no longer be.


Make it a both/and kind of week.


A pastor can hope, right? This one sure can.


Please join me in that hope!



So many donations!



Becca started her three-month sabbatical on Sunday, June 23. We will welcome her back in mid-September. Until then, when we hear a Harry Potter quote or see rainbow colors on fingernails, we will smile and think of her.