The Sacrament in Wearing this Cloth: Old First E-pistle 08.06.21

The Sacrament in Wearing this Cloth: Old First E-pistle 08.06.21

Beloved, 

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the urge to begin masking again. Not so much out of my own fears of the Delta variant, but for the greater public health concern. As a vaccinated person, I could still carry the virus (without even knowing it — and also of course get sick!) and infect others, which with this variant could be particularly dangerous for those who have not been vaccinated. I don’t want to do that now, anymore than for all the months before. But I do need to stop forgetting my mask….

Still to have come this far and find ourselves facing this kind of threat again — it’s frustrating and disappointing. We thought we were coming out of this. And I don’t really look forward to August heat and humidity masked much of the time. 

What I have to share with you today is to help me as much as to help you, if you also find yourself facing masking all over again. 

Mark Steiner has been sharing with me “Bethany Connections,” the newsletter of the UCC congregation where he and Ellie were members before relocating to Warminster. It was a great help and source of inspiration while I was coming up with daily “Fear Nots.” 

In the edition he sent to me this week, he flagged Pastor Kim Mislin Cran’s opening article. The rate of infections in their Summit County in Ohio has risen to such a point that they need to begin masking again in worship. 

I can’t remember how long they have been back in the Sanctuary, but it’s been some time. I also don’t remember all the details of their arrangements, but I do not think they have not been as cautious and careful as we have. And reading between the lines of Pastor Kim’s article, she might be getting some pushback now that the congregation is expected to wear masks in worship again. 

She responds by exhorting her congregation to “selfless acts of mercy,” which she promises are freely available in our era of COVID, the simplest being wearing a mask for the sake of others. 

She then shares a prayer that I had seen during the writing of the “Fear Nots,” but never actually used or shared. It was written by the Moderator of the United Church of Canada, a sister denomination to the UCC. The Right Rev. Richard Bott tries prayerfully to consecrate mask-wearing, to make it sacramental. I share this that it might make donning masks easier for us too: 

Creator,

as I prepare to go into the world,

help me to see the sacrament

in the wearing of this cloth –

let it be “an outward sign

of an inward grace” –

a tangible and visible way

of living love for my neighbors,

as I love myself.

Christ,

since my lips will be covered,

uncover my heart,

that people would see my smile

in the crinkles around my eyes.

Since my voice may be muffled,

help me to speak clearly,

not only with my words,

but with my actions.

Holy Spirit,

as the elastic touches my ears,

remind me to listen carefully –

and full of care –

to all those I meet.

May this simple piece of cloth

be shield and banner,

and each breath that it holds,

be filled with your love.

In your Name

and in that love,

I pray.

May it be so.

May it be so.

 

See you in faith, hope and love, 

Michael