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Hope in the Midst of Fear
March 24, 2020, 3:14 PM

We’re isolated. We’re puzzled. We’re scared. And right now, it’s snowing. Snowing like it’s the middle of winter instead of spring. Snowing like: “Hey, where did that traffic light disappear to? It used to be right there!” Lent is going to be long. Longer. Longest. And this is only the first week of our new normal.

This time last week, I was sitting with Fr. Neal, discussing whether or not we were cancelling services. We were talking about what we thought might happen. Well, it’s happening. Church services are on hold. The coffee shop we were sitting in is only doing take-out, like every other restaurant in town. You know the rest, so I won’t bore you. Or try to scare you more.

But in the midst of this, I want to write about hope, because I believe from the center of my being that God provides hope even in the midst of this chaotic and impossible storm.

Last Wednesday, I stood at the St. John’s Prayer Table with my mask and gloves on, praying at a socially appropriate distance for four different people over the course of an hour, I suddenly heard the most beautiful sound—the liquid crystal song of a cardinal, singing as if his lungs might burst, singing as if he had a message for the whole world to hear, a message of beauty and hope in the midst of pandemic. I turned around to look, and there he was, at the tippity- top of a bare tree, his redness brilliant against the blue sky, and he just kept singing. And I thought “How can I keep from singing?”

Then yesterday, while on line at Price Chopper with yet another jar of peanut butter in my bag (yes, I can be accused of hoarding peanut butter, but there was plenty on the shelf, I promise. This is really my problem, not the world’s.) I felt the tension of everyone around me, some wearing masks, most wearing gloves, as we waited for the next self-serve register to open. Some grumbling occurred as the supervisor of the area, a young man about twenty years old, closed one of the registers. We wanted to get OUT of that place as soon as possible, and this would cause another hold up. But I watched that young man meticulously, scrupulously clean that entire register, and the area all around it. I got weirdly teary-eyed as I watched him clean parts of that station I never would have thought to clean. As I checked out and then left, he was STILL cleaning that register area, so I stopped and said quietly to him, “Thank you for working so hard to keep us safe.” His smile was as bright as the cardinal’s song.

And today…oh today…where to begin? I fielded three phone calls from people who needed food and I assured them we had food and that we are happy to give it away. I spent time with the director of our NOAH Program, a Sunday meal program that continues as a take-out only mission, and listened to Anna as she cheerfully unloaded one food delivery, and then grinned in response to a triumphant text message from her later on that said she had ‘snagged four cases of beef stew and 48 bars of soap’, in addition to all the usual things the program needs to continue. Her enthusiasm and joy give me so much hope.

Around 2 p.m. I got an emergency call from a colleague, Suzanne Schermerhorn, lay leader of our local synagogue. Did we have food, she wanted to know. A disabled woman and her adult son are unable to leave their home and they have nothing. I packed up two weighty bags of food—pasta, butter, coffee—luxuries for people who have nothing, but so ordinary for most of us! I packed sausage patties, ham steaks, canned fruit and vegetables, peanut butter (😊), jelly, cheese sticks, soup…I packed these bags with love and intention and prayer, and Suzanne arrived in the midst of this blizzard of a snowstorm we are having so she could take those bags and head out into the far reaches of our rural county to deliver them. I waved at Suzanne from a socially appropriate distance, and my heart broke open. We can help feed each other. We MUST help feed each other. Hope looks like peanut butter sometimes.

Then the final thing—a video sent to me to teach people how to make CDC compliant masks out of cotton fabric and elastic. Of course, one must know how to sew, which takes me right out of the mix, but lots of other people DO know how to sew, and all of a sudden, there is this community of sewing people who are sharing resources and making masks for our local hospitals. This reminds me of times during WWI and WWII when people would grow Victory Gardens for themselves and to share with others. Community involvement, a literal wave of love, caring and compassion that will help us overcome fear, isolation and illness. While most will go to those local hospitals, one person is bringing some here to St. John’s so we can safely continue to distribute food that people desperately need. Without those masks, we were not going to be able to do this because I was requiring people to have some form of protection if they planned to serve.

This may be only the first week, but I have hope, hope that we will pull together instead of apart;  hope that in the midst of fear, God will give us his strength; hope that a challenge of this magnitude will foster a spirit of determination that we, the people of God, will not stop serving, loving or being his people in a world where the news, the internet and the conversations we have are cultivating desperation and hopelessness. We can embody the hope that someone desperately needs. So make that phone call. Send that belated birthday card. Make another mask. Give away that extra jar of peanut butter to a local food pantry. But stay safe. Wash your hands, say your prayers, and remember that “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8 

I choose hope.


05-24-2020 at 7:15 AM
Just read this. Thank you for all you and your husband have been doing during this very difficult time. I truly enjoy the times I can tune into your messages. Prayers.
03-25-2020 at 8:24 AM
Richele Mollica
Thank you for this. Thank you for bringing a positive outlook on something we see as so grim. Thank you, thank you, thank you.🙏
03-25-2020 at 7:37 AM
Judith mihal
Correction, judith mihal not judith mohammed
03-25-2020 at 12:39 AM
Lori Stearns
Thank you for being the amazing leader that you are. The world is a better place knowing that they can either here or read you're hopeful and inspirational peanut butter words
03-24-2020 at 10:50 PM
Claudia jurica
You are hope we need. I listened to you speak on Sunday. Keep doing what u are doing.
Thank you.
03-24-2020 at 10:19 PM
Melissa Blanchard
Thank you for posting such positive words in such a hard and trying time for us all.
03-24-2020 at 9:27 PM
Jane Queeney
Thank you for sharing so many positive vibes. We all need to help where and when we can! Please reach out, I would be more than happy to drop food off to people.
03-24-2020 at 8:48 PM
Allison DeMarco
THANK you for words of hope and comfort today.
03-24-2020 at 7:04 PM
Mary Jane Knapp
Thank you for your words of comfort
03-24-2020 at 5:09 PM
Brenda Haberland
Beautiful words of encouragement, comfort and peace. It fills my heart to see you and Ftr. Alistair on the live videos. Thank you!
03-24-2020 at 4:56 PM
What a smart idea to blog. Thank you!
03-24-2020 at 4:42 PM
You are the good Shepherd
03-24-2020 at 4:34 PM
Lisa Pfeiffer
Thank you for being you. You are hopeful and inspiring!
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