May 3, 2020

Here are the elements from our service this morning – May 3, 2020

GATHERING WORDS – Gretchen Haley
LEADER: What’s going to happen? Will everything be ok? What can I do?
In these days we find ourselves, too often, stuck with these questions on repeat: What’s going to happen? / Will everything be ok? / What can I do?

LEADER: For this hour we gather to surrender to the mystery
To release ourselves from the needing to know
The yearning to have it all already figured out
And also the burden of believing we either have all the control, or none.

PEOPLE: We grasp at signs and markers, articles of news and analysis,
Facebook memes and forwarded emails
As if they’re a new zodiac
Capable of forecasting all that life may yet bring our way
As if we could prepare
As if life had ever made any promises of making sense, 
Or turning out the way we’d thought 
As if we are not also actors in this still unfolding story.

LEADER: For this hour we gather to surrender to the mystery
To release ourselves from the needing to know
The yearning to have it all already figured out
And also the burden of believing we either have all the control, or none.

PEOPLE: Here in our song and our silence
Our stories and our sharing
We make space for a new breath, a new healing,
a new possibility to take root.
That is courage, forged in the fire of our coming together
and felt in the spirit that comes alive in this act of faith:
that we believe still, a new world is possible
That we are creating it, already, here, and now.


“Fatigue and Transformation,” Susan and Bob Ryder

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Barbara Kingsolver – “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” (Animal Dreams)

Anne Lamott – “Hope is the belief that no matter how dire things look or how long rescue or healing takes, modern science in tandem with people’s goodness and caring will boggle our minds, in the best way.”

Thich Nhat Hanh – “Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.“

I heard the phrase “quarantine fatigue” this week when it came up as the subject for a segment on NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Monday ( I’ve never heard it before – maybe it’s new for this moment in history. I knew what it meant right away, though – a kind of “cabin fever” many are experiencing as a result of the problems and challenges with social distancing.  The virus is dangerous – lethal for some – and we can’t tell if we have it right away. We don’t have in-person access to loved ones.  Millions have lost work.  Rites of passage such as proms and graduations have been cancelled.  We’re uncertain how long the quarantine needs to last before it’s safe to go back to normal.  Some aspects of our lives are probably changing forever.  It’s all very stressful and it takes a psychological toll.  “Quarantine fatigue” sets in – a restless malaise that effects our mood and causes us to discount the importance of distancing, masking, and the other difficult-but-necessary measures we have to take to reduce the devastation of COVID-19 pandemic.

I suppose the NPR story stood out for me because I’m experiencing quarantine fatigue myself.  No doubt it gets to us in different ways. Personally I don’t mind some extra down time. I’m fortunate that a lot of my work can be done from my comfortable home. Susan, Daisy and I are good company. I like reading and practicing music. So it’s not the restricted travel or change in work habits that are wearing on me. It’s witnessing the cynical rebellious politics in several state governments and populist groups – instigated by the White House – pressing for a premature end to quarantine restrictions. Beside increasing the duration and dangers of the pandemic, the opportunistic hatred and willful ignorance is exasperating.

So it helped when I had a phone chat recently with a wise friend who reminded me about the value of deliberately choosing one’s perspective, deliberately choosing one’s response – one’s mindset. We might not be able to decide whether the world will change us, but we have a lot of control over how it changes us. My options for how to think and feel and speak, and where to channel my attention and energy aren’t limited to reactive aggravation or despair.  I can choose to be offended, or I can choose to be curious and creative. I can choose to be vindictive, or I can choose to be humble and generous. I can choose to judge and condemn, or I can choose to be inspired by a tide of underreported decency and kindness and emulate that in my own sphere of influence. 

Susan takes part in a devotional email list from Rev. Cameron Trimble.  She’s a pastor, pilot, and the CEO of Convergence – a not-for-profit group comprised of subsidiary companies and organizations dedicated to organizational transformation. A recent email referenced the “imaginal cells” involved in the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly – Susan, do you want to share that email?

SUSAN:  I had never heard of imaginal cells before, and was immediately fascinated by the concept. Rev. Trimble writes, “The amazing part of the transformation from the caterpillar to the butterfly is that you have this middle space, the cocooning season, where your body literally becomes mush. You disintegrate. You lose shape. You lose everything that defined you as a caterpillar. You become goo. In meaningful ways, you die to what you were. But here is the miracle: inside that deathly mush are imaginal cells. These cells hold the vision of a future within them. When all seems lost and nothing that was known can be known as it was, the imaginal cells give us the vision for moving forward. They know that with the right conditions and a little time, a butterfly waits to be born.” She goes on to say, in the midst of this pandemic “we are mush right now. We are messy, fragile, unprotected, insecure, unrecognizable, disoriented, developing, transforming, imaginal beings. We are in that liminal space between what was and what can be. Our becoming something better on the other side of this is not guaranteed. But with the right conditions, with the awakening of people to the beauty of our planet and the intimacy of our connection to everyone and everything, we have the chance to become something new. Don’t dismiss this as flowery language or overly optimistic dreaming. If ever there was a moment for you to become who God has dreamed you to be, it’s now. Don’t miss the chance. Everything is being made new, especially you.”

Using imaginal cells as a metaphor for the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps we can think of ourselves as entering into the chrysalis stage of transformation; during this time of COVID-19 quarantine we are going through a potentially similar experience of metamorphosis. There’s lots of heaviness and lack of light. Everything feels fluid… Uncertainty abounds. Sometimes we aren’t sure what day it is. Inside the chrysalis, what was previously the voracious caterpillar is transforming into a butterfly. Within the undifferentiated “goo” of the magical metamorphosis, individual imaginal cells of what was once a caterpillar hold the potential for the future, acting separately at first before combining to create something new and amazing — a butterfly. There is an aching need for humanity to transform into a global community which values and implements social and environmental justice; one in which we live in harmony with nature. As Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What if this time of quarantine inspires us to become the imaginal cells for a transformation of our dysfunctional society? What might happen if we each connect, combine and create something new and more beautiful together?

BOB: It’s that repeated recommitment to choosing a hopeful perspective that sees me through quarantine fatigue. Even with so much intentional ugliness and stupidity, I’m still persuaded – I still choose to believe that a new and better world is possible on the other side of all of this. It gives me hope to realize that it’s the small actions you and I take to practice compassion, kindness, and generosity – to be the imaginal cells of transformation – that create the beginnings of a better world.

Joys and Concerns / Silent Prayer

Pastoral Prayer – Bob

O sacred mystery in whom we live and move and have our being – fill our hearts this morning with the knowledge that nothing can separate us from your love.  In our happiness and triumphs, in our sorrow and tragedy you abide with us, embracing us with healing and wisdom and strength.  We pray you would fill our hearts and minds with that presence today and in the weeks and months ahead as we journey in the strange season of quarantine.

Let your healing descend upon those who are ill or injured, upon those who are exhausted in the effort to care for the sick.  Let your intelligence and courage guide our leaders in the ways of science and a commitment to the common good.  Be with those who mourn, with those who are lonely, with those who feel discouraged or lost, and insofar as possible inspire each of us to reach out as ambassadors of your peace and comfort, witnesses to your unfailing goodness in a troubled world.  Help us to be the reason we have faith in you and the reason we keep faith with one another.

Neil Douglas Klotz – O Thou!  Breathing life of all, Creator of the shimmering sound that touches us.  Cause your sacred name to fill our breath, creating within each of us an altar of wholeness.  Let your wise counsel rule our lives, uniting our intentions with yours for the well being of all creation.  Inspire in each heart the will for divine cooperation: from many selves one sacred voice, one sacred action, one sacred community.  Lead us each day to what is needed for that day, food for the soul and mind as well as for the body; sustenance for the journey of growth and life.  Free us from bondage to our mistakes, both accidental and intentional, as we release others from bonds of debt and guilt to us.  And keep us from the delusions and distractions that lure us away from the sacred journey.  For out of you flows the force vital for producing and sustaining all life and every virtue, the song that beautifies all, from age to age it renews itself within each of us.  Let these blessings come to be. Amen.

Leader: Blessed are the ones who hold things so much in common that, when they break bread only in their own homes, it becomes a sacrament that awes the world.

People: Blessed are the ones who day by day by day by day, spend time not together but apart and call it loving.

Leader: Friends, we gather as one body, joined around the open table of Jesus. Nourished and hungry, loved and loving, sinner and forgiven; we make one circle of knowing, believing, rejoicing, being, as God lights and rests among us.

People: Christ invites everyone to eat the bread of life, to drink the cup of the new covenant. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. You who come to me shall never hunger, you who believe in me shall never thirst.”

Leader: On the night of his arrest, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks to God, broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for the healing of the world. Whenever you eat it, do so remembering me.”

People: After supper, Jesus took the cup and said, “This is the cup of the new covenant, poured out for all. Whenever you drink it, do so remembering me.”

Leader: As we share this meal, may we experience what Jesus would have of us all, a sense of Sacred presence uniting us in hope, peace and courage.


Closing Blessing

Howard Thurman –

During these turbulent times,

It is just as important as ever
to attend to the little graces
by which the dignity of our lives

is maintained and sustained. Birds still sing;
stars continue to
cast their gentle gleam

over the desolation of the battlefields, and the heart is still inspired

by the kind word and gracious deed.