Good Friday 2020

I came home last night feeling sad. We have been working very hard in the last few weeks. We have been learning how to employ new technologies, writing out daily prayers, answering the phones, preparing worship bulletins, and working with reduced staff. I am, however, used to working hard and putting in long days. I have been feeling a bit distressed that I come home so tired at the end of each day. I worry that I am absorbing the stress and tension of the society around me. I know that there are a lot of fearful people out there. I’ve spoken with people who have become panicked when they encountered a person without a face mask while going into a store. Our county has seen only six cases of the virus. Three have fully recovered. The others are in isolation and nearing full recovery. While it is possible for there to be infected people out there whose illness has no symptoms, the risk of a quick trip to the grocery store are minimal. But there are those who are very afraid. My job is to listen to them, not instruct them. Sometimes it seems as if I have barely finished one phone call before the phon is ringing again. I think I am absorbing the stress of others. I am tired.

Mostly, I am really missing our people. On March 15, we had our last public face-to-face worship. Attendance was already reduced because of fears of the spreading pandemic. A toddler escaped the grasp of his grandmother and ran up the center aisle of the church I got down on my knees as he approached. He gave me a big hug and then returned to his grandmother. I miss him. I miss the other children. In normal times our building is full of preschoolers. Now it is empty. Yesterday the director of the preschool was putting away toys and equipment because they will not be in session for the rest of the year. Most of the classroom doors in our building are shut and sticker because they have been sanitized. If I were to go into one of those rooms it would need to be cleaned again. Our halls are empty.

I spoke, from a respectful distance and through face masks, with two cancer survivors yesterday. These are people that I would normally hug. The same is true of the piano artist who played for our Maundy Thursday live stream last night. When we have worked together and put together a collaboration we almost always give each other a big hug. Not now.

I guess I am grieving.

It is exactly how I am supposed to feel on Good Friday.

Were this a normal year, I would be approaching the limits of my endurance at this point. I would be thinking, “Just two services today. I’ll be finished by 1:30 or 2 pm. I can sneak in nap today.” After a heavy week of emotional services, I would be very tired. I joke that Holy Week is 80% moving furniture. We set and reset rooms all week long to accommodate the many different types of worship experiences that we offer. Each year we print a brochure that is a directory of Holy Week services.

In my line of work, I’m supposed to be tired on Good Friday. I’m supposed to be looking forward to taking a day off on Easter Monday.

The cycle of the Christian year covers the entire range of human emotions. At the core of our faith is incarnation - God becoming fully human with all of our sensations, emotions, problems, challenges, and even our frailty. Our Gospels report of Jesus’ birth and his death, but also of his friendships and his tears, his frustrations and his challenges. Christianity did not invent the concept of God in human form - it is a regular theme of Greek and Roman pre-Christian mythologies. But the concept when wed with radical monotheism produces a way of thinking about the nature of the world that is unique among world religions. There is only one God and that God is love and the way God loves is to become the beloved.

This is our week of remembering that sorrow and sadness and loss and grief are deeply embedded in the human experience and, as such, are fully known by God. We give, but we are not alone.

I’m supposed to feel this way on Good Friday.

So I take a deep breath. I pray for strength and courage and peace. I get up and I put on foot in front of the other. I answer the phone when it rings. I listen carefully to the needs and concerns of our people. I write notes. I feel the weariness in my muscles and my bones. I lead worship. I go from one thing to the next, sometimes without pausing to think of long term plans or ways of being more efficient. You don’t get over grief. You get through grief. Walking in grief brings me closer to God.

Surviving a pandemic is a unique experience, but our people have faced rampant illness before. We are survivors and the stories of our people reveal deep trauma and real oppression. This temporary separation we are experiencing is nothing compared to some of the things our people have known. And we have always kept alive our story. We have always known who our God is and to whom we belong.

Easter may be coming, but it isn’t the mood for the day and, frankly, I don’t have the energy to think about it very much today. This journal entry has no well thought out or pre planned conclusion. I won’t be wrapping it up with a neat turn of phrase or a hopeful metaphor. And therein lies the most important part of this day: Despite the weariness, despite the grief, despite the loss, despite the sorrow, we know that this is not the end. There is more to our story than Good Friday.

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!