Dear Ones of St. Columba's,
I had the privilege of being on a zoom call with some folks who are new to us, this morning, and in answering questions about our community I was reminded of the first time I participated in worship at St. Columba's. It was seven years ago this week, Easter Vigil 2014. It had just been decided that I would be assigned as the next Vicar of St. C's, and my predecessor was gracious enough to invite me to take part in Easter Vigil. In particular he wanted me to participate in the baptisms happening that night, because he knew that I would be the priest the little ones being baptized would grow up knowing. It was incredibly generous of him.
Up until that moment, I had only participated in Holy Week in one place - the congregation that sponsored me for ordination. I was nervous about meeting new people here, and what it would be like to experience this incredible, mysterious week in a context so different from the one I was used to. I worried that I wouldn't like it, or that the people who were eager to meet the new vicar wouldn't like me.
Here is what I learned, that night. I learned that it was possible to experience the Easter Vigil very differently than I was used to, and still be moved and transformed by the experience. I learned that if the people present love God and each other, then even if nobody knows exactly what to do or how it will go, God shows up. I also learned how to baptize a baby that is incredibly skeptical of water, which is a great skill to have, although less relevant to the topic of this particular letter.
Our community looks a lot different now than it did that Saturday evening seven years ago. We have kept Holy Week together ever since then, continually welcoming new people into our hearts and always being open to trying new things. Some of those new things have worked, others not so much. But God has never failed to show up when we gather. Not once.
I think I can safely say that this Holy Week, beginning this Sunday, will not be like any other Holy Week you and I have ever done, either together or apart. We are trying many new things, radios and outdoor experiences woven together with the worship that is more familiar. You can come and be present outside for worship, or listen in your car, or watch live on the internet. I don't know just yet what parts will be transcendent and what parts will be, well, not exactly what we are picturing.
But here's what I do know. All we need to make it holy is to be together. All we need in order to encounter God this week is to show up - in the parking lot, on the lawn, online. God is already waiting for us to join his son in this journey toward the cross that began in Lent and continues in this Holy Week. I have no idea what will go right or wrong this week. I am okay with not knowing that, because I do know that where two or three or more are gathered, Jesus is there. And I know that when our community shows up, God shows up too.
I can't wait to walk this path with you.
with care and gratitude,