First day of spring

The forecast for today calls for it to start snowing around 8 am and to continue snowing throughout the day. The winds will pick up during the day to about 20 mph, which isn’t really that much, but enough to feel chilly. Yup. It’s spring in South Dakota. March 19, vernal equinox, the whole bit. The days have ben lengthening for quite a while. We switched to daylight savings time. Here we are in the thick of spring.

Meanwhile, the layoffs have begun and the gains in the job market that have been fairly steady during the recovery from the 2008 recession are beginning to be reversed. The president who has been warning about socialism in his opponents, is proposing a huge cash payment directly to American voters - a move that doesn’t sound very much like the Republican play book, but then not much this president does sounds like any play book. They are laying off folks at the White House, too as the exodus of professionals from the executive branch of the federal government accelerates.

The pandemic has left us isolated from one another as churches suspend worship services, concerts and plays and sports events are cancelled, people avoid unnecessary contact with one another, except in the grocery stores which are crowded with people pretending that they can’t see each other. The store seems to have a distinct lack of disposable disinfecting wipes on the shelves, but people are really going through them at the front door, wiping down grocery carts before they head into the busy and sometimes empty aisles.

I have always been a fan of gloves. I have work gloves and dress gloves and even a couple of pair of protective gloves that are supposed to have a chemical barrier in them. I have boxes of disposable latex and nitrile gloves that I use when working with epoxy. We’re not hurting for toilet paper, but we’ll run out of toilet paper before we run out of gloves at our house.

It’s pretty strange working at the church with the reduced traffic of people. The halls are empty and quiet without the children. We’re often in our separate offices working on trying to figure out how to become better at using social media. Today I’ll be focusing on how to conduct worship on Sunday, in a nearly empty sanctuary.

I’m told that subscriptions for distance working and meeting software are skyrocketing. Go To Meeting and Zoom seem to be the favorites. Because I am a volunteer at an agency that provides services to persons with disabilities I happen to know that Go To Meeting is HIPPA compliant. You have to be careful to protect others’ privacy if you are going to broadcast your meetings over the Internet. I’ve used both platforms over the years, but currently am not a subscriber to either.

I invested at least an hour yesterday learning to use a livestream camera. The church made the investment to be able to get worship and other experiences out to our people. I know there are churches that were set up for this long before the crisis, but I’ve been a slow adopter of certain technologies and cabers and projectors have never been quite my style when it comes to worship. I am a big fan of people coming together to form community.

We’re learning to be careful about cleaning and protecting surfaces around the church, but there are so few people there that I think the various viruses are probably not finding hosts in most of our rooms. Preschoolers are pretty good about sharing whatever they have and seasonal illnesses travel around our building fairly freely most of the time. A few weeks without people will make a big difference.

But it is spring in South Dakota. We’ve never judged the presence of Spring by the weather outside, however. We’re waiting for Easter to remind us that resurrection is a part of God’s creation. While folks in other parts of the country are tending their gardens, we’re speculating on which day will be the last day of frost and when the last spring blizzard will come. Mind you we like this. I’m not a big fan of year-round lawn mowing and we’ve seen enough years of crackly dry forests to enjoy a walk on spongy ground.

I met a member of our congregation for lunch yesterday. He is a physician and has recently undergone chemotherapy, so is both knowledgeable and careful about infection risk. The cafe where we met was nearly empty and smelled faintly of chlorine, not unlike a swimming pool, but perhaps not quite as much. The cafe was operating on shortened hours, but did offer dine-in service for lunch. That may not continue much longer as people stay away from gathering places. For some reason the story of a very successful restaurant that was driven out of business by a case of legionnaires disease came to my mind as I was walking back to the office. Illness can be devastating to the restaurant business.

We are all in this together and we are social animals. People were designed to be with each other. Genesis 2:18 in the King James Version says, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone.” At its core our faith is a communal religion. We believe that faith is “caught” more than it is “taught.” We pass on the faith of previous generations by our behaviors and how we treat one another. That is a hard message to transmit over media. We do much better in real face-to-face interactions.

While we are trying to be responsible and we certainly don’t want to cause others to become ill, we are not enjoying this isolation. We are enduring it. Than again, we don’t actually enjoy every spring blizzard. We endure them. A blizzard day just won’t be the same if we’re already self-quarantined.

Let’s hang in there and let’s stay in touch. I think I’ll work on writing letters with part of my day today. We’ll get through this together.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!