Last week, we said goodbye and good riddance to 2020, praying fervently for a better year ahead. A year in which we’ll be able to once again see families and friends face to face, send our children back to school, reclaim jobs lost, and heal divisions—to live as we once did, without fear of the virus that has robbed us of so much.
The path to this, though, is not like flipping a light switch or traveling through a time warp. Epidemiological evidence indicates the next few months will be difficult ones. The COVID-19 rates in Howard County as of January 4th were a 6.9 positivity rate and a case rate of 32.5. We’ll be unable to gather and worship in person until the virus spread is better under control, something we look forward to as more of us get vaccinated. But the next few cold, winter months may be some of our most challenging.
Pastoral care doesn’t stop in a pandemic—it changes, adapts, and transforms, as we seek creative ways to care for each other during these anxious times. Christ Church’s Pastoral Care (PC) Committee has experienced several big changes of late. Mary Keath, who has faithfully led the committee these past four-plus years, recently turned over the reins to Kathy Lyon. Mary has been the cornerstone of the PC Committee, keeping abreast of parishioners’ needs and seamlessly coordinating care and support. We are so very grateful for her leadership, and we pray for blessings for her and Ed as they prepare to move to their new home in Oregon sometime in the next few months.
Some of you will recognize our new PC Commissioner, Kathy Lyon, from her time in the pulpit. She is one of our lay preachers and is also discerning a call to the diaconate. Kathy will continue to work closely with the committee and with clergy, seeking inventive ways to offer support in a safe, physically distanced way. For example, our PC Committee will be stepping up our parish keep-in-touch ministry, with regular check-in calls to fellow parishioners.
We also have a team of dedicated volunteers willing to prepare and deliver no-contact meals. Please know that you needn’t be ill to request meals. If you’re helping to educate your children from home and feeling stressed, maybe you’d like a break from cooking. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed during winter’s isolation, a meal prepared for you might offer some additional time for self-care. If you find yourself in need or want of a meal — for whatever reason — don’t hesitate to reach out to myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to Kathy (email@example.com).
The PC Committee will also continue to send handmade cards, pray for those in need, and reach out virtually to newcomers. Lay Eucharistic visits remain on hold, but we will look to resume those—as well as Baptism preparation—as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Additionally, I want to mention a virtual opportunity for those grieving the loss of a loved one. St. John’s in Ellicott City hosts Walking the Mourner’s Path—a grief support ministry open to all in the community. The program, offered at various times throughout the year, consists of small group workshops led by trained lay facilitators and a member of the clergy. Participants discover Christ-centered support in their grief, tools for moving forward with joyful living, and ways to honor their loved one. Information about sign-ups for the upcoming March session will be communicated once available.
We also plan to partner with St. John’s to offer a series of virtual health and wellness sessions this winter, to be held once monthly on Thursday evenings in the months of January, February, and March. Stay tuned for more information about those opportunities to nurture self-care and connection within our Christ Church community.
Finally, clergy can be particularly helpful during certain challenging times and life events, offering spiritual support and counseling during crises — such as the times we find ourselves in today. Father Manny and I hope you won’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need to talk. God’s peace be with you.