Dear Friends,

As I write to you, it is Easter Friday – the day on which we would normally be holding our annual Requiem concert. In years past, a great mass of hyacinths would be scheduled for delivery tomorrow at the church, to be distributed to our Sunday School children and graduates. I would be preparing for the annual Passover Seder in Hale Hall, and a celebratory service marking Easter, Passover, and the earnest beginning of Spring in two days’ time.

But of course, this year, everything is different. Would that this disruption to our worship life were the only difference. Would that that absence of beloved symbols and practices were the only loss. Would that our anxiety over upheaval to the rituals of our spiritual community were the only cause for uncertainty, or fear. As sorry as I am to miss these annual touchstones this year, I am humbled by how much more there is to miss, and how much more there is to lose.

We have been told to expect the peak of the Coronavirus outbreak in the US over the course of this week and the next. Like some of you, I have studied – probably too much – the daily-updated graphs and charts that plot our trajectory here in Essex County. If that’s not your habit I don’t recommend that you start now, but if you are holding your breath waiting for the numbers to start to move in the direction that indicates less sickness, less worry, less potential death – know that I am holding my breath along with you.

Even without the statistics and the graphs, most of us are feeling this pandemic now in some deeper, visceral way. Some of us have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Some of us don’t have a diagnosis, only a for-now unanswerable suspicion, and all of the attendant anxieties. Some of us know someone in the hospital or quarantined at home with the disease. Some of us are a part of the health system confronting a generational challenge. Some of us know someone who has died from this pandemic. The sorrowful, sobering reality is that, in the fullness of time, nearly all of these categories will expand. By the time this crisis is over, more of us will have had this disease, more of us will know someone who has had it, and more of us will know someone who has died from it.

The seasons of Easter and Passover both contain – in their two very different ways – both transcendent hope, and crushing despair. The shadow of injustice, terror, and death moves alongside liberating joy in the narratives of Exodus and the Gospels. If you are feeling that you are in the shadow now, I pray you will allow yourself that feeling. For neither Moses, nor Jesus, nor the disciples, nor the enslaved Hebrews weathered times of calamity with perfect certainty or sunny optimism. Please do not hold yourself to a higher standard of confidence than the prophets or their communities could have met.

Instead, I offer you the strongest solace that I know of; the best elixir for the renewal of hope that I have found in this life we share: you are not alone. You are not alone in your loss or in your fear of losing. Not alone across time and space, and not alone in this very particular moment. As I draw courage and strength from the many of your how have reached out to me in these days to express your care and concern, I offer the same revitalizing gift back to you. I love you, and I am with you. I grieve with you and I worry alongside you. In this shadowed hour, I also hope. In the dim light I call to you: accompany me in this as well.

Together, let us endure. To survive and to help each other survive is the mission of this hour. In the distance, on the opposite side of this shadow, there is a hope in offering. Another world is possible; I would say, in fact, that this global catastrophe has proven it necessary. We needed each other before. We need each other now, in this strange, frightful, liminal world. And we will need each other in the age to unfold after it. My friends, I wish you health and strength, and compassion for each other and for yourselves in these days. Please remember I am here if you need me, to share in your sorrow, your worry, and your hope.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson