“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit… As it is, there are many members, yet one body… If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 20, 26.
I am fueled by my connections and interactions with others. It’s what drew me to becoming a youth worker, where my entire day is spent entrenched with helping others. It’s the reason I spend most of my time outside of work involved with church, friends, or other community activities. And it’s one of the main ways I’m drawn into the presence of God, together worshipping at church and in the eucharist. However, in the past few weeks, as the intensity of COVID-19 increased and the government’s recommendations shifted from “avoid large gatherings” to “isolate yourself and only leave your home for essentials,” this way I’d grown accustomed to living my life has had to shift massively. I now work and spend 99% of my day alone in my one bedroom apartment, which I previously joked was simply a place to house my cat and sleep.
My initial response to these changes was terror. The transition to social isolation felt extremely sudden and painful, like someone had placed my chest in a vice that cranked tighter each time I refreshed my Twitter feed to reveal the new horrors in the news. How would I find the connection I needed to thrive?
While stumbling through the adjustments to this new schedule, I turned to prayer. I started praying the Daily Office through the livestream shared on the Montreal Dio Facebook page, and was surprised by the sense of peace and connection I felt. I started going on long runs in the afternoons, propelled into the cool air, just witnessing people in the world lifted my heart as it pumped blood through my body. I felt myself begin to adjust to this new rhythm, to feel these moments in silence or in prayer with God as moments of freedom.
In reading this passage from today’s lectionary, I’m reminded of these moments of connection, and why they’ve had such an impact on me. This passage, and this time of social isolation, reminds me of that essential, inescapable connection of God’s love that I share with every person. That in the same way I cannot escape those parts of myself, my limbs, organs, bones, I also cannot escape the connection that binds us together in God.
Life in social isolation has forced me to redefine and reappreciate connection. I have so much gratitude for the moments I get to have. The sense of joy I feel seeing my friend’s faces in a Zoom meeting. The honour of getting to hold the hands of homeless service users as I administer hand sanitizer during a volunteer shift at a shelter. The peace of a real human hug from someone close to me. I used to take all of this for granted.
At the same time that we are united in God’s love, like described in this passage, we ache and mourn together. We ache for stability, for safety, for our loved ones, for our families, for our lives back. We mourn for those who cannot self isolate, for those who have or who will die. We can hold space for our ache, while also holding space for our faith.
Faith that in distancing ourselves, we protect the most vulnerable, flatten the curve, in making this personal sacrifice we will help save each other. Faith that no matter barriers and distance between us, we can never escape the love of God which binds us together as one. Faith that the church is bigger than walls, bigger than distance. Faith that this is temporary, that just as Jesus descended to the dead and was resurrected, so too will we rise again and pick up the pieces together.