Much to my doctor’s chagrin, I enjoy hash browns from the Waffle House.  I don’t eat there as often I’d like because of said doctor, but when I do, I order my hash browns “scattered, smothered, and covered.”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed most of our partner congregations are scattered, smothered, and covered, too.

Congregations are scattered, as we all are, from their routines and from each other.  Physical distancing and isolation have disconnected us in ways many could never imagine.  Whether we’re technologically savvy and engaged in a more globalized view of the world or whether we’re practically Luddite and prefer to keep our lives as local and simple as possible, this time of scattering has disoriented us in a great many ways.  Most of us long for physical presence and personal touch to remind us of what it truly means to be human.  Many of us decry the often-necessary bureaucratic meetings of our churches, but after having so many meetings on ZOOM or other online platforms for the past 2 months, an in-person Tuesday night Deacons’ meeting may not seem so bad!

Congregations are also smothered.  We’ve been smothered by a seeming avalanche of bad and frightening news over the past months.  Keeping up with infection counts and death rates has sapped our strength and drained our emotions.  Trying to educate children at home has smothered the pure joy of school for many kids and families.  Attempting to gather for worship or small group times in such strange circumstances can often leave us gasping for a fresh moving of God’s Spirit.  Social media, no matter the platform, has often become a daily barrage of negative name-calling and disappointing news that threatens to extinguish our social connections.

Thankfully, though, our congregations have also been covered.  Physically scattered and emotionally and spiritually smothered, many of us have returned to the deep well of grace that is the heart of our faith.  We’ve found scripture to be a true balm in Gilead that soothes our souls.  The end of the 8th chapter of Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome has been lifted up more in the past two months than perhaps any time in recent history:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

Yes, we’ve been scattered and smothered, but thank God, we’ve also been covered.  Through the cover of God’s grace, we’ve been discovering new ways to be more authentically real with each other, especially our families with whom we’ve been sheltered-in-place.  We’ve found that productivity is often overrated and that walks in the beautiful spring weather, lunches on our back porches with our family, and even afternoon naps are vastly underrated.  By God’s grace, we’ve discovered that sidewalk chalk is a nearly indispensable instrument for telling our postal carriers and package deliverers, garbage collectors, public safety workers, and neighbors and friends that God truly loves them and so do we.

Whatever the future holds for our physical gatherings, may we all know and experience new ways that God’s grace covers us.  May we find creative and helpful ways to share that grace with those most desperately needing it during these days: our doctors, nurses, hospital staffs, hospital chaplains, public safety workers, and others.  May we have the grace to continue to be careful and diligent about our own safety precautions so that others may follow our lead and continue to find God’s grace in our world.  And may we have the grace to love each other, no matter where we are or what we believe about this crisis or how we respond to it, as Christ himself has called us to do.