Coronatide has made the San Pedro faith community very creative. Opportunities to pray online and safely in person are manifold. Distribution of food for the needy has continued. Non-techy folks are figuring out how to livestream and Zoom and work the YouTube. We are hardly using any indoor spaces, but we are using every square inch of our parking lots and courtyards and lawns. I’ve seen Ocean View Baptist praying in their parking lot, Calvary Chapel pitching in for a drive-by Halloween outreach, Temple Beth El navigating the Holy Days creatively, First Presbyterian installing their new pastor Jennifer, and that is just the beginning. Everyone is adapting. It is not in the Bible, but it is true: “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not get bent out of shape.”
Every other Sunday, Trinity is gathering in front of the steeple for our 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. worship service spread out on both sides of Broadway Avenue with lawn chairs and benches and EZ Ups and portable altar and pulpit and of course, hand sanitizer. When the occasional driver, and even a jogger, cuts down Broadway, they look surprised when they notice they are not alone. We can’t keep our candles burning outside, and our Wi-Fi doesn’t always work, but we can hear God’s word and receive the Lord’s Supper and pray for the needs of God’s world, the needs of San Pedro, our own needs.
Do you ever wake up and feel loss after you were in the middle of a great dream? We had a long-term dream of a pedestrian plaza on the upper portion of Broadway Avenue. Our statement at Trinity is “Welcome Home,” and we envisioned our neighbors gathering after they dropped their kids off at 7th Street or Willenberg schools or the medical community walking up from the hospital to have a quiet break. It looks like that dream won’t come true. Knowing our ministry was going outdoors for the foreseeable future, we presented a plan and beautiful conceptual drawings and applied to L.A. County for vacation of the southern half of Broadway. We were denied. Bummer. Another disappointment in a year of disappointments. And who is there to comfort us in our disappointments? No one except Purell and Zoom is thriving.
What are the holidays going to be like for our families? Probably different. Bummer. Christmas is coming, but first Advent. Advent is like the night before Christmas. Dark. Wondering. Wandering. Advent is a reminder that this world is a broken — but not beyond repair — place. It takes seriously the darkness of despair and the disappointments that we all experience without descending into hopelessness. Advent reminds us that waiting is a normal part of life, but that we are not just waiting around. We are waiting for something, or maybe Someone?
We have looked to our technology to rescue or at least distract us. We have looked to exercise and our health to protect us. We have looked to education to elevate us. We have looked to politics for belonging and meaning. We have looked to teams and hobbies for identity. We have looked to our work for purpose. Who are we without our technology, our health, our education, our political party, our hobbies, our work? Cursed coronavirus has stolen so much from so many. Its impact is deep and pervasive.
What is the 11 p.m. service going to be like on Christmas Eve out on Broadway Avenue? Probably different. Our candles might extinguish. We might get cold. Displaced from indoor warmth, we might be closer to the cold manger and swaddling cloths and the infant and his mother. We might be closer to the shepherds out in their fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Christmas 2020 isn’t going to be ideal, but neither was the first Noel. It is Advent, but Christmas is coming. He comes to make his blessings known, far as the curse is found. May the Light that is coming into the world dispel any of your dreary darkness and give way to God’s blessings in 2021. spt