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Worship Amidst a Pandemic and other thoughts…

Where to begin friends….

Many of us have been stuck at home or working from home for the past 4 months. Those of use who are essential workers, have continued to go to work each day, so day to day hasn’t changed much. At least for me, my day to day, didn’t change much except just staying home when I got home from work.

No more gym friends.

No more coffee dates.

No more date nights out to explore our city.

Instead we go more Netflix, more time together as a couple. Honestly, it’s the most time we’ve had the chance to spend together in our 3 years of marriage. But it’s all different.

And that doesn’t even really being to explain the pivot that changed at church. For churches around the county, and the world, there are new ways to worship that are emerging before our very eyes. I’m sure you’ve seen, many churches going live, sharing videos of worship, or mid-day/mid-week formations. Maybe that’s just me? (pastor’s wife/clergy friend problems?). And while all of this is so great, we still gain some sense of community. But it’s all so very different than what we could have ever imagined. Here we are, on Sunday March 8th, 2020. We didn’t know this would be the last Sunday in the church for 4 months…

Our congregation is mostly older adults, and those who are at high risk. So we went all online for worshiping starting on March 15th. The way I have watched my husband pivot to online so quickly, learning to use Zoom more than we ever thought we would before (why didn’t we put stock in Zoom??), and learning how to do correct lighting in our home, edit videos, and create worship packets for those in our congregation who do not have internet access. And more. I have watched all my clergy friends in awe, amazement, and also feeling worried and burdened for them. This work is not easy without a pandemic. But their willingness to pivot, their continuous calls to this work, and the way they are sharing love and hope even during these dark times is to be commended. To any of my clergy friends reading: you are a blessing. I am grateful for you.

Worshiping online, at home, with more distractions is more than many of us are used to. A typical Sunday morning (pre-pandemic) for us looks like this:

-My husband wakes up early and gets to church around 7:30 am to practice his sermon, set-up for worship, and pray (and insert other pastoral duties here..)

-I go to a Lutheran church at 8 am, because I still need to be spiritually fed and be reminded of my roots

-I go home around 9:15 am to do some quick chores before worship

-I get to our church around 10:15 am for worship at 10:30 am

-Home around 12 pm for lunch and the afternoon at home (or running errands, etc.).

*During the pandemic, here’s what worship has looked like:

-sit around (well I get used to sleeping in a little) and then we got a dog to walk and cuddle with along with our cat, and twiddle our thumbs until about 10:15 when we open the zoom for worship (and repeat x 4 months). Oh and finally get the chance to worship with some of our clergy friends (biggest blessing of online worship).

On Sunday July 5th, my husband, along with his team from church, decided to return to in-person worship. I was a little nervous (and I still am) but I am proud of our congregation for forming a team, making a plan, and laying out guidelines for what in-person worship looks like. So with a lot of things in place like no singing, masks for every who attends, only one way in and out of the building, dismissing members by rows, and chairs set up in pairs 6 feet part, worship has begun.

Here’s the first time I was in the church since March, and it felt weird… I’m not used to seeing the church so empty. After 5 years of seeing my husband in ministry, I think I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen a sanctuary this empty. Then there are the chairs set up in pairs all measured 6 feet apart to keep social distance, which means our sanctuary is now holding about half capacity of what we would before the pandemic. We normally have more chairs than this set out, so it all looks weird, and it feels weird.

Now for me personally, I have not returned to worship, and that’s my choice. Given the setting I work in (skilled nursing), I’m still staying extra careful. I don’t feel comfortable returning to in-person worship yet. My building has been through a lot throughout this whole pandemic, and I’m not taking that lightly. So whatever I can do to keep myself safe I’m doing, and right now, that includes not going back to worship. So how in the world does an OT think that all of this worship from home during a pandemic is related to the world of OT?

Well, for many, this time of pandemic/stay at home orders/work from home/life is not as usual has been a time of occupational deprivation. Occupational deprivation is defined as “prolonged restriction from participation in necessary or meaningful activities due to circumstances outside the individual’s control.” (theothub.com, 2020). AKA, occupational deprivation is a prolonged time spent at home with restrictions from social outings, gatherings, and anything fun except essential trips brought on by something outside of our control, the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, one of my most meaningful occupations is going to worship each Sunday. So my Sunday morning routine from earlier, is all wrong. I have been out of my habits and routines for 4 months (as all of us have).

For you, your occupational deprivation may not even include the slightest hint of worship/church and that’s okay. Maybe your occupational deprivation is the Friday nights out with friends/work friends, taking a lunch break at a new restaurant by your work, spending a weekend away with friends, flying to travel across the county or the world, or participate in marathons/5Ks, etc. You get the point right? We have all had something taken away from us that is outside of our control. And it sucks. Let those feelings play out. Whether you are still working right now (like me and other essential workers) it sucks because of the politics of debates about masks and having feeling jealousy of all your friends who get to work from home and find more time for themselves (maybe that’s just me, and that’s okay too). Or if you are stuck at home, maybe alone, that also sucks. You may be jealous of friends who are married, have roommates, or living with families. Maybe you even decided to go back to live with your parents for a time for your own mental health. All of that is okay.

But what the heck do we do about all this now?? Well, isn’t that the eternal question of this pandemic? With tensions running high from local, state, and federal levels about mask wearing, schools reopening (or not), and the racism that is finally coming to the forefront of many people’s minds in our country. A freaking pandemic in some senses seems like the least of our worries? Well, not for me. It’s still top in my mind. But all of these things are related. There is a lot of fear being spread across any and all forms of media you consume. And it’s okay to take a break.

It’s okay to delete your fFcebook/Instagram/twitter account to spend time on yourself.

It’s okay to not be reading books about anti-racist work if you are not in a safe, or healthy space to do it.

It’s okay to have strong desires to see your friends (and sometimes see them in socially-distanced ways or zoom dinner dates).

It’s okay to feel sad that your work made hard choices that impacted you significiantly.

It’s okay to feel scared about what your work could do that could impact your job significantly.

It’s okay to be scared about starting your career during a pandemic.

But it’s also okay to be grateful for what you have: more time at home, reconnecting with friends and loved ones, spending more time outside to enjoy the beauty of creation around you, and so much more.

I know this was a long one (it’s been a while guys). But I hope I can leave you with some home. I hope you take some time to reflect on your own story, your own journey during these past 4 months and find some good.

There is still room to grow, still room for hope, still room for love.

All my hopes and love to you,

An OT working during a pandemic with lots of feelings

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