From the Rev. Jonathan Weldon of St. Paul, Bellingham:
Light Shines in the Darkness
At Morning Prayer today, we again prayed: “Arise, shine, for your light has come,” and affirmed that “in the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”
I set out to write this reflection by revisiting these words shared with me by a member of St. Paul’s Vestry:
On my way to Lake Padden yesterday before Morning Prayer, the phrase “Creature of Light” came to me. Sunlight was spilling onto emerald green lawns and meadows…the message seemed to be that being a creature of light doesn’t mean we keep that light to ourselves, but that it is meant to be shared, hopefully to heal.
Another vestry member writes that St. Paul’s remains a light for all by “keeping the ‘church’ open while simultaneously keeping the building closed.” She continues: “I believe we have actually deepened our identity as a…community of faith, hope, and love. She tells me that she’s heard “so many people say that they actually feel closer to other parishioners than they did when they went to church in the building!” She observes that through Facebook there is mutual support, the sharing of ideas for service in the community, and reaching out to see how each other is doing. This, she asserts, “promotes kinship.” Our EfM group meets by Zoom; so does our men’s group, and our women’s retreat leaders took the disappointment of not being able to go on retreat in stride. They are making plans for a year from now, in hope. One vestry member told me she was happy to be off to help an elder member set up her new computer. Another member reported doing the same for another elder who is a widower so that he could join the men’s group.
A group of members are making telephone calls to check on parishioners. We’ve issued a Wellness Survey with many responses. Some are making Facemasks to give out; one staff member has made over 900 and counting. Some are delivering Meals on Wheels. We have medical personnel in the congregation; one doing critical leadership in an ER, another a doctor who came out of retirement to assist in the local hospital where he was once Medical Director. We have nurses doing work out in the world. Children and Youth Ministry staff and volunteers are preparing home lessons for parents and guardians and keeping in touch through Zoom. Another parishioner went to care for another couple’s house after they were stranded by the virus in Canada and not permitted to return. Another group of parishioners meet by Zoom to talk and support one another in their neighborhood.
And on those daily Compline services and Sunday Morning Prayer services on Facebook Live, we are blessed to see the comment box filled with the intercessions and thanksgivings of the faithful. Sometimes the list is full. Other times the list seems less full, and I imagine that perhaps people just can’t find words. That’s when I remind them that God prays in us when we can’t find words. God wants to give us “those things which we dare not, or in our blindness cannot ask.” (BCP p. 394-395)
I celebrate the light that shines through lives of those around me. Last week a member who was 97 died. He served in WWII on a Coast Guard ship off Greenland; he lived through years of great crisis when there was no end in sight, and a good outcome was not in any way guaranteed. I celebrate the light that came through a parishioner who died recently at age 100; she whose countenance always seemed to be in a smile, eyes twinkling. I celebrate the light that comes through elders who’ve been through great times of trial and remain resilient and full of faith, hope, and love. Two of them were in concentration camps during WWII and lived to write about it. Others were children during that time. They have known times of great trial.
I celebrate the light that shines through the lives of neighbors and community members who may not share our Christian faith, but in whose lives we see a commitment to service that, in my understanding, is a reflection of that divine life that flows through all creation.
I celebrate the light that we have in the revelation of God in the story of God through the biblical witness; calling a people to bear witness to the faithfulness of the Creator to the Creation. I celebrate the light that shone in the face of Jesus Christ, the light that the Spirit sheds on our way through times of shadow, the light that will be fully revealed. I give thanks for our Anglican/Episcopal tradition of Common Prayer that turns our attention to this light shining as in a dark place, and for the company of the church in which that light is reflected like a prism.
For behold, darkness covers the land;
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise,
and his glory will appear upon you.
-The Third Song of Isaiah, BCP p. 87.