This may be too strong of a metaphor, but I often wonder if the physical separation from each other and our sanctuary at First Church is like being in exile during the pandemic. We’ve had to find a new center for our spiritual community, a mobile center located on many devices in many homes. While we prepare to regather as embodied community in our physical sacred space in our church building in March, I am reminded of “return” stories.
Susan Beaumont wrote in her book How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, “In the book of Ezra, we read the story of the Jewish people finding their way back to Jerusalem after a period of exile. The first temple, and the accompanying way of life that supported the temple, is gone. However, the foundation for a new temple is being laid, and the people gather to celebrate this important new start for the community. This is how the Hebrew scriptures describe the gathering:
“And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.” (Ezra 3:11-13)
We are privileged to be able to return. Many exiled people can’t. Many are driven from their homes and temples, relocated from their lands, and never allowed to return. We are lucky. Our shouts of joy and sound of weeping will mingle and make so much noise when we return to our former foundation as a physically connected living breathing body of faith. We will be renewed. I can’t wait!
Rev. Dena McPhetres, Associate Minister