March 14, 2020
Dear People of the Diocese of Massachusetts,
Yesterday I looked out at the city park beneath my window. The usual Friday afternoon bustle was nowhere in evidence. A surreal and eerie quiet had descended there, as it has on so much of our lives. Two lonely musicians appeared with guitar and drum, set up a busker spot on the edge of the park, and began to play into the wind, singing to their virtually empty surroundings. Gradually I recognized strains of the Mumford & Sons chorus:
But you are not alone in this
You are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand
And we’ll hold your hand …
In the strangeness of the moment, it was a comforting assurance from an unexpected direction.
A few hours later I found myself at the bedside of one beloved to us all who had just slipped peacefully from this world to the next. In the sure and certain hope which we claim, I gave voice to the Church’s prayers of commendation:
Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world …
into the blessed rest of everlasting peace,
and into the glorious company of the saints in light.
A solitary moment, yet embodying the fullest companionship imaginable.
At no time are we alone. Here, there. Now, then. At few moments in our memory have we more needed to remember this, to assure one another of this and to show forth that conviction to others as Christians.
Our Sabbath day tomorrow will be marked by communal prayers, many of us for the first time employing electronic means to be “together” while apart. Even churches maintaining onsite worship will adhere to stringent means of “social distancing.” Yet in profound ways, we are not alone in this. We are together, by God’s grace. And we must resist the worst manifestations of panicked individualism taking hold in so many quarters around us.
Find a way to be in community, however virtual. Pray alone, pray together. Reach out to those who live alone. Contribute to the emerging needs of those most vulnerable.
In the week ahead we will continue to track all the best wisdom about how to stay safe, and keep others safe. We will share what we are learning about creative ways to worship and keep together while apart. We will renew our determination to be the Body of Christ in the world, singing into the wind, “You are not alone in this.”
Faithfully and fondly,
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates