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Calm Amidst the Chaos

You Can Pray, by Rev. Dr. Bruce Epperly, Pastor, South Congregational Church, Cape Cod, MA

Pray without ceasing. (I Thessalonians 5:17)

One of the great social activists of our time, Dorothy Day, was sidelined in her mid-seventies as a result of serious illnesses. The founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, along with Peter Maurin, however, was not daunted. She asserted that now her calling was to pray rather than picket! She could still pray for justice and social transformation even though she was confined to her home. She could even protest in her prayers!

Many of us feel like Dorothy Day. We are used to going where we want to and when we want to. We are used to socializing and to involving ourselves in social outreach programs and volunteering in our communities. Many of these opportunities have been taken away from us as agencies are closing and as we are choosing rightly to practice social distancing, sequestering ourselves at home. It’s easy to feel discouraged and depressed at our inability to reach out to others. Yet, as Dorothy Day says: we can pray!

Prayer connects us with God and with others. Prayer joins us with all creation. When we pray, we are never alone – we have God, each other, and our relationships with friends and strangers. Prayer liberates us from isolation spiritually even when we must isolate physically!

In these days of Coronavirus, I invite you to reach out in prayer. If you are part of a congregation, I invite you to pray as you go through your church directory. Pray for loved ones, friends, persons in need, and our nation’s leaders. 

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (I Corinthians 12:26)

There has recently been a discussion on Facebook about the appropriateness of using the counsel “social distancing” in Coronavirus messaging. Some suggest “physical distancing” would be a better term since it involves our physical rather than emotional or relational proximity. You can be next to someone and be emotionally absent. You can also feel great intimacy to a person living in Maryland, Missouri, Scotland, or China. As all of us know, there is no distance in love or prayer.

I am going to use the term “physical distancing” from now on to indicate that we can be joined despite our distance for each other. In the body of Christ, we are all connected. Our joys and sorrows are one. Our hearts are joined regardless of space or time.

So, let me advise “physical distancing” and “social connecting.” Today, you can bridge the distance by calling a friend from church, sending an email to a relative or someone from your high school class (I sent a note to a member of my high school class of 1970), say “thank you” to someone who has changed your life, and reach out to a vulnerable person in your circle of friends.

And, of course, keep praying. Prayer joins us across space and time and enables us to be one in the spirit despite physical distancing.

Loving God, keep us in relationship with you and one another. Remind us to speak words of love, care, and gratitude today, and recognize that we are all joined together by your Amazing Grace. Amen.


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