Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This is the first week of 2021. As we begin this new year, I’d like to reflect on 2020, a year that some would want to forget. Last year has shown us we have more in common than we think. It would be an understatement to say a lot has happened this past year. Let’s start with last January. I remember attending the last of the services to thank Bishop Wendell Gibbs and Mrs. Karlah Gibbs for their service to the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.
In February, our diocese hosted our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, with approximately thirty bishops from around the country and overseas as we participated in the consecration and seating of the 11th bishop of our diocese, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Bonnie Perry.
Towards the middle of February, I heard about a new strain of the flu that was different. There was talk of a strain that made patients very sick, with symptoms that lasted longer than usual. March brought a mysterious virus. By the end of the month, we had a name for it: the coronavirus. In April, all the major news networks kept us informed of the fatalities and number of people infected in our communities. Many of us were already working from home as the traditional workplace proved to be hazardous. In May, we were getting used to virtual worship, wearing masks, washing our hands, and physical distancing.
Students were looking forward to a break from academics, attending summer camp, graduations and going on summer vacation. Summer camps were cancelled. The various programs were not prepared to host so many youth safely during a pandemic. Graduation ceremonies that are usually filled with tradition, were quite disappointing as they could not be held in person in many cases. School districts did their best to make it special and memorable. Summer vacations were safer as “staycations.”
By June, we knew what PPE (personal protective equipment) meant. The daily talk of the coronavirus made us aware of things we had to do and the warmer temperatures tempted some to break the rules. Everyone wanted to “return to life as normal”. There was talk of a vaccine. The temptation to travel, eat in restaurants and get together had fatalities rising across the country. In July, state governors were nervously implementing rules that seemed harsh but necessary to save lives as the number of infections continued to rise. According to data, essential workers and communities of color are affected in disproportionate numbers. This brought about discussions on race in health disparities. I am proud to say the Episcopal Church is involved in these discussions with a goal of bringing about lasting solutions with Presiding Bishop Curry’s The Way of Love, Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life.
In August, all eyes were on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions with questions on how it would be held safely. Meanwhile, a lot of parents were looking forward to their kids going back to school during the fall. That happened in some school districts for a short trial period in September. Gradually, instruction from most schools, colleges and universities went virtual. College football, among other sports, was up in the air. The kids looked forward to a time to get out and see each other again – maybe Halloween?
In October, there was still talk of going back into our church buildings and “life returning to normal” as retail shops were in full swing for the holidays. In an effort to save small businesses in our communities, a campaign started to shop local. This brought about the igloos, tented seating and heating lamps for physical distancing to make eating out safer – a creative alternative to merely providing take-out.
November heralded fear and anxiety with our presidential election. Secretaries of State and the politicians in Washington were looking at safer ways to hold the upcoming elections. Mail in ballots were in every mailbox. Record numbers turned out to vote. And as expected the infection rates kept rising as did the fatalities.
We have a winner and the transition has started. In December, we celebrated Advent virtually. The pandemic has forced us to be creative; it has also afforded us the opportunity to attend virtual service at churches we normally would not have visited. On the last Sunday of 2020, we worshipped with others in our diocese and Governor Whitmer. Over a thousand people attended. We prayed together as one community. It has been an amazing year. Let us not forget those who are no longer with us.
Let us pray:
O Most mighty and merciful God, in this time of grievous sickness, we flee unto thee for succour. Deliver us, we beseech thee, from our peril; give strength and skill to all those who minister to the sick; prosper the means made use of for their cure; and grant that, perceiving how frail and uncertain our life is, we may apply our hearts unto that heavenly wisdom which leadeth to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, 1928, page 45).
~ Luke Thompson, Diocesan Council Resolution Review Committee