I signed out of social media a week or two ago.
All of it.
We're now over five months into the world of pandemic, and something had to give.
I threw on a hoodie last night - because August evenings in Montreal get chilly - and noticed it was from Vanguard, in Edmonton. A gift when I was speaking there for a few days in February. When life was still normal.
That feels like a foggy dream now.
I miss that world.
Since then ... well, you know. We've all got our own stories, disjointed bits that we will remember.
I remember Tuesday, March 24, around 6 PM.
Oh hey - that's precisely five months ago, today.
We had already moved our Sunday gatherings online. We were already disinfecting every surface, all the time, washing our hands constantly. Some of us had already been working from home.
But now, on this day exactly five months ago, I told everyone in our office to get what they needed, go home and not come back. The government had told all of us to go home. I stood in the silent, darkened office space that Tuesday evening, a little sobered. I wondered what would change before we returned ... on April 13, was the plan.
We're still not back, not like we were.
I've since moved most of my office home, for the first time since 1994.
After years of literally saying, "Don't worry, no matter what happens, it's not like we would close the church doors" - we closed the church doors.
I'm ok with that, theologically, for a time. We believe the Church is not its building; it is its people. We aren't of the ilk who believe this is an infringement on our freedoms or some form of faith-persecution. But Christians also believe strongly in gathering together - we are a communal faith - and in helping our world - we are a serving faith - and we couldn't do either, not like we wanted to.
We found our way, and still are doing so.
God's Church is still quite alive and well.
But we miss each other.
We miss the warm, non-distanced gatherings, with music and laughter and together-prayer and cheek-kisses.
We miss being together in our building.
At one point, I saw tumbleweeds (figuratively speaking) blow through downtown Montreal, where previously there were always crowds and traffic. One Saturday, Jeff and I drove along Notre Dame from one side of the city to the other - not a single moment of traffic. We never stopped or slowed, except for traffic lights.
If you know Montreal, you know how impossible that is.
Trucker-Man, suddenly declared an "essential service," was being thanked on media and billboards for just doing his job. He found that amusing. "That's not usually how people respond to truckers," he said wryly.
His job was sold to another company a few months ago, so that happened too.
I glance now at the labels on this blog site, and see the label "Andie lives here" and it's a gut-punch, because a blood clot happened in May, and one day she was fine, and the next she was ... gone. All the vet could say was, "I'm so sorry ... it is terrible luck ..." as we cried.
Last night I cried again, missing her.
Impossibly, unbelievably, just a couple of hours later that same day, I led a graveside service - 10 people only, strictly spaced - for a woman in our church who had died of COVID. The grief and trauma of those there was palpable. We could not comfort, not really; we could only try to speak gently (but audibly) and look at each other from a distance.
I've cooked and washed dishes more than I have in a long time, as restaurants closed for months. Some of you missed malls and shopping.
Not us. We missed restaurants.
I stood in long lines in a parking lot, just for the privilege of going into a grocery store. I was delighted to do so, out there in the sunshine, because it gave me a reason to leave the house. Stocked up three weeks' worth of stuff - which we never do, we live in an urban centre, for goodness' sake - because I didn't know when I'd be back, and I didn't know what items people would start hoarding next, and I was trying to respect the admonitions to "stay home" as much as possible.
And the new, tiny black fur-ball that is Gibson.
A personality for whom everything is a joyful, wonderfully exciting adventure.
He's five months old now.
He's a hilarious handful.
And now we're in the last week of August.
I've returned to school, because I made that decision about four days before the virus hit. Working now on the last assignment of the first course.
Every time I go out the door, the mental checklist includes keys, phone, wallet. And a mask.
How many times recently have you gone back into the house - "I forgot my mask"?
Yeah. Me too.
And after over five months of 15-minutes-a-day prayer and Scripture together at 7 AM, our little online devotional group is coming to a close. Life is shifting again, schedules are changing, and things move on. Most of our group barely knew each other last February, though we were part of the same church. Now ... well, some unique friendships have been forged, as we've journeyed together through this season.
Thankful for that.
Montreal kids go back to school in the next week or so. No idea what that will bring for our society and therefore our church's life, so we pause, balanced on our toes, ready to pivot again if need be.
Always balancing, holding our breath, pivoting.
I - we - our staff - other pastors - spend hours, constantly, exploring possibilities, watching for gaps in our protocols, checking to see if rules have changed, if potential liabilities have opened up, reading insurance updates. We spend hours shifting the essential nature of what we do to new methods of doing it, checking the effectiveness of it, and shifting again. We continue to share the timeless truths that are part of following Jesus, knowing that those truths are foundational in a deeply-changed world; but we also gently lead our congregations into likely inevitable, often uncomfortable, change - even as we hold to an unchanging faith, to a God who continues to be "I Am".
I worry sometimes about pastors a year from now, caring for people without taking a breath, pivoting outside of our areas of expertise or even knowledge, all with a tremendous level of uncertainty.
I pray for pastors and check in on some of my friends.
We're all tired.
There's a lot going on.
So I signed out of social media a week or two ago. Because a lot has happened, and my own mental health matters, and I knew that something had to give.
And I'm ok.
Please don't do that sympathetic head-tilt, with accompanying, questioning murmurs.
I hate that.
I'm ok. 😌 And when I'm not, I know what to do, who to turn to. And words are an outlet for me, so I sign in to my long-neglected blog, and I write.
Maybe I'll sign in to social media, just to post this.
Then I close my laptop, because Gibson the Wee Wonder-Pup is awake and needs a walk.
And so do I.