You all know that I had a rough start in this isolation gig.  I missed being with people–still do–but I have really settled into staying home and working from home.  I have stayed here unless I had a compelling reason to go out.  That reason was usually that I had run out of milk for my coffee.

So this past week I had to go out for other reasons.  The foot nurse to fix an ingrown nail.  My own doctor where I had to actually go in person because of an eye issue.  Then a meeting with the minister of the congregation we share a building with.  Then a few days later to go to the Sanctuary and make a recording of the sermon.   After that, I had to go to the grocery store, because even though I had milk, I had run out of coffee.  That’s a lot of trips in one week.

It was not a good experience.  To tell the truth, I haven’t been feeling safe in the grocery stores for a while, and I only go every 10 days or so.  People are less patient waiting for others who are at the item they want.  People are more likely to crowd.

I even feel less safe on the roads because there are so many more cars on it.  I was getting used to being the only car on the road and now there are others, not signalling, or signalling and not turning.  In the past two and a half months I have not honed those skills of anticipating what another driver might do.

Anyhow back to yesterday’s trip to the store.  First no one watches for the arrows.  That is likely because frankly no one looks down in the store  They look up for the sign which tells them what is in the aisle.  Then when they find the aisle they are looking for they do a sharp turn into it and come face to face with the other shoppers going in the right direction.  Apparently buggy driving and car driving have the same alarming moments.

Then as I waited for the women at the canned goods I was planning to pick up to make her selection and move on, someone bumped up behind me and reached across my shoulder for what he wanted.  Had he asked, I would gladly have moved.  Then there was a group of 5 or 6 teenage girls walking in a group, someone forwards, some backwards as they talked to each other.

I don’t know if we are simply weary of physical distancing or if the lifting of restrictions have made us think that it is safe out there, but it is getting to be a place where I no longer feel safe.

And as I have not felt safe for a while I have been looking for a mask.  Everywhere the search engines say I can find one, are out and can’t get more.  As I don’t go out often, it limits my searching, but it is a frustration.

Yesterday with relief that the ordeal was almost over,  I went to a teller and she asked me how I was as she started to ring up my order.  The usual pleasantries, right?  Wrong.  I said I was fine and asked her how she was.  Her answer, “I don’t feel safe and I want to go home.”  She told me about people not behaving in a socially appropriate manner at the checkout.  She talked about the greater numbers of people in the store.  That particular store has “customer appreciation days” a couple times in the year and she is dreading the next one that comes up and is planning to phone in sick for that weekend.  I wonder how many other cashiers are feeling that way.

I carry all those feelings into discussions about returning to the Sanctuary for worship.  I emailed with someone about not feeling safe in the stores and how I don’t feel safe about going back to the Sanctuary.   I talked about the H1N1 epidemic earlier this century, where despite herd immunity (most of the people I knew had already had it when they were younger) and a new round of vaccinations, and none of us shaking hands and other measures being taken–and how with all that I managed to catch what we all called the Swine Flu.

I have never been that sick in my life, and never want to be that sick again.  That makes me anxious about catching this virus because it makes the Swine Flu look like a picnic in comparison.  I don’t know how I got sick that time, no one I knew or spent time with was sick at all.  So I picked it up out there in the community, the grocery store–who knows.

And that is a big problem with the current pandemic.  It is being spread by people who don’t have symptoms and may never have them.  They don’t feel sick.  They don’t cough.  They don’t have a fever.  I have this vision of a bunch of faceless typhoid Mary’s running around, which is ironically is just  about what is happening.

But here where I live we are able to go out more.  We have done a great job staying home and flattening the curve.  As a result, we are starting to talk about returning to the Sanctuary, asking, when and trying to figure out how for the safety of all who are concerned.

So where do I take this jumble of feelings.  I do want to get together, just sitting alone in the Sanctuary and recording the sermon feels flat and lifeless.  Yet I know that the Spirit is there, its just that worship is lacking that energy of the presence of the people and the feedback they send as they listen.

I take my comfort from the message of the Ascension.  Before he goes Jesus tells the disciples that when he goes he will send the Spirit.  And he prays for them and subsequently for us.

This for me is so important, because it tells me that Jesus is in our prayers.  I am reminded that his working from home job is to intercede for us with the Father.  And the on earth job of the Holy Spirit is to enter our prayers, groaning for us when we don’t know what to say.

And that tells me that if we all engage in prayer, between the wisdom of the Spirit and the grace of Jesus and the love of God, we will all be guided into making the right decisions about going back into the world and trusting in our safety.

So today, I take a deep breath, and with confidence I pray that God will leads us as we make the decisions about when and how worship in our Sanctuaries will resume.  And I trust that God’s leading will prevail.

Gracious Lord, full of love, mercy and wisdom hear our prayers
Open our hearts to trusting you with confidence
Direct your Spirit to speak your wisdom into our earnest pleas for guidance.

Watch over us, and protect us with your presence
Instill us with the confidence we need to trust you in all things
Love us in spite of our stumbling and mistakes
Love us until we too live that love into the world.

Prepare our hearts and our minds for the ministries you are calling forth from us
Reveal your will so that even we cannot miss understanding it
Encourage us with grace and fill us with peace
Vanquish our doubts
Ask us to trust you
Invest in us with the knowledge of the unity we have in you
Lead us, so that we may follow in your footsteps as you direct.  Amen