During Pastor Jim’s Sabbatical, we have decided to revisit some previous missives. They were written in the earlier days of the pandemic. The original publication date has been left on the missive.

A Word from Pastor Jim
March 18 2020

I remember the drills. Not the dentist; that is a different story. Not the drills that my golf coach had for us; that, too, is a different story. The good news or bad news is that if this coronavirus goes on for weeks or months, you may indeed get to hear all of my stories.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the drills from grade school. “Class, we are all going to be practicing our drills this morning.” I was thrilled! I hated math. I could not spell. My best subjects were recess and drills.

“Now class, if there is an emergency, we will tell you what to do. So, do not panic, everything will be OK. Now, who knows what to do if there is a nuclear attack by the Russians?” The fat boy in the back of the room who could not spell or do math, quickly raised his hand. “Jimmy, what do we do?” “We get under our desks and cover our heads and wait for the blast to pass.” “Very good Jimmy! Now class, let’s practice and remember, do not hurry or panic.”

What followed was three minutes of a simulated nuclear explosion. I am guessing that our school was gone and most everyone we loved was incinerated, but we were safe under our desks.

“Now class, what do we do if there is a tornado coming? Jimmy, let someone else answer, I promise you we will go to recess soon.” Rita raised her hand. “Mrs. Burke, we go out in the hall and stand with our heads against the lockers to protect us.” “Very good, Rita. In a minute the alarm will sound and we will not panic. Just walk by rows out into the hall to the lockers and take your places until we get the all clear signal.”

I am not sure what those drills were for, but I guess I did feel safer when I heard about tornadoes or Russians. But in reality, it was an illusion. Life is inherently dangerous. Even if we play it safe, follow the rules, wash our hands, eat low-fat foods, and look both ways before crossing the street we can still be caught up at any moment in a calamity.

The coronavirus is a crisis that is not of our making. We had nothing to do with it, but it is here. Suddenly, and with very little warning, we are all imperiled. Getting under our desks or standing in the hallway will do little to lessen the risk. Our finances are in shambles, our roads and cities are locked down. We are not allowed to worship together. We are, however, fortunate to live in a place where we can still go out for recess. In major cities, the opportunity to walk the beach or the neighborhood has been taken away for public safety.

We are not responsible for this crisis, but we are not helpless either. We were baptized for moments like this. We have the opportunity to be beacons of hope to our neighbors. We can order food from local restaurants. We can use technology to reach out to friends, old and new. In the church office, we are making every effort to keep in contact with some 1,000 people.

Let’s be clear, this will get worse before it gets better. We know that we will not be worshiping together for at least eight weeks. The virus is here, we have several in our parish who have tested positive already. We know that there will be more.

The drills. The drills will not protect us 100%. Life has no such guarantees. Do not be afraid, and do not panic. Here is the drill: wash your hands, stay away from others, pray for health care workers and first responders, pray for those who have tested positive for the virus, send a card, email, or letter, and hold on to hope. This crisis will not last. This virus will have a shelf life, and brilliant scientists are working to defeat it.

And finally, do not forget my favorite subject: recess. Get out of your house and go for a walk, enjoy the sunshine and the beauty of Whidbey Island, breathe deep knowing that God is with us and we are in this together.

My love to you!
Pastor Jim