Happy 2021! Yesterday, besides my New Year’s Day traditions of doing a visioning session with my spiritual center and making a meal of black eyed peas (chili), greens, and cornbread (cookies), I was really into re-reading the book and working on lesson plans for the literature class that I start teaching again next Tuesday. So it wasn’t until I was in bed, doing my nightly pre-sleep gratitude and other spiritual practices, that it struck me–I FORGOT TO POST TO MY BLOG! And I was planning to write about such a great gift, too. Still, it was late and I just told myself that was OK, I would do it tomorrow. So here is yesterday’s post.
One of my greatest gifts during 2020 was my faith community, my spiritual center. And I’m sure that is true for many, many of us of many different faiths. Just like schools and colleges, suddenly an institution that had always prided itself on its personal touch was forced to go virtual almost overnight. But our spiritual center did it, as did so, so many other churches, temples, synagogs, yoga studios, meditation centers, and other vehicles for contemplation and spiritual development.
I know little about the technical aspects of arranging Zoom and Facebook and Google Meetups and all the other technological solutions to the fact that we couldn’t gather together physically like we did. I know it took a lot of intense work from the people from our center who set it up, for which I am so grateful. We never missed a single service due to technical difficulties.
I was a part of putting on the services (the only people who came to the center physically were the people leading the meditation and/or service activities, the singers, and the AV volunteers). And I can tell you as a speaker, it wasn’t easy, at least at first. It felt unnatural to be talking into a nearly empty room, trying to connect through a camera without knowing whether anyone was listening at the other end (especially when there was a whole hubbub going on behind the AV booth, which meant there was some issue going on).
Still, I––and while I say I, I feel like I speak on behalf of so many others in similar situations all across the world––carried on. I/We carried on, because it was necessary. Because someone had to support people in using their faith to deal with all this. Because I knew how much it meant to me when I was at home and someone else was speaking about these things to me. Because if there was even one person out there listening…well, that was enough. Because people needed to rely on the fact that just because we couldn’t be together in person, that didn’t mean we were not still a community.
Like everything else, the more I did it, the more I got used to it, and the better I got (at least I hope so). I pushed through the weirdness of the situation until it became “this is what we do.” I know that this is not what we will always do, because I look forward to when we can gather together in person as we used to do. But this is what we do for now.
So my faith community continued to be not only a source of inspiration and connection and education for me, but also a way for me to contribute to making bad times a little easier for each other. That is one of my greatest gifts of 2020.
I particularly appreciated our holiday services this year. I’ve always loved our holiday traditions, but they were based in being together, which we believe is not a safe thing to do right now. So I got to be a part of redesigning and sometimes presenting brand new holiday services that reflected 2020 realities. Not only did we make them so they worked over Zoom and Facebook Live, but we included portions that acknowledged and helped people to process and release all the unique challenges of this year. They were beautiful and heartfelt and, I thought, just right for where we are right now.
This post is a particularly a shout-out to the TCSL ministers, practitioners, AV volunteers, staff, contributors, and everyone else who made it possible to continue our operations, because that has been such a source of support to me personally. But it is also a thanks to all the other faith communities of whatever denomination for their hard work uplifting their own networks and constituencies. We are all better off when more people feel supported, connected, and inspired. Our communities, faith and otherwise, make us stronger because as Kelly Clarkson sings, “Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone” (https://youtu.be/Xn676-fLq7I).