Getting Some Friends Together to Dress Up and Pretend You’re Having Dinner with the Queen

Well, maybe that isn’t such a good idea during a pandemic. But it is a lot of fun during healthier years. In fact, it’s more than fun. It touches a whole community so deeply with the beauty of the music, dance, costumes, and Shakespeare performance that it raises us to a new level of that experience we call the Christmas Spirit.

They set a memorable table, too.

Who ever thought that they were designing a super-spreader event when the first EMF was planned in 1988? Public health professionals might have known the term but it wasn’t in our vocabulary in Brazosport, Texas. In 2020. however, we know enough about coronavirus to know that those little devils would love the intimacy, the powerful vocal projections, and the intense rehearsals required to make the experience everything that it is. And food service, too? It couldn’t happen in July, 2020.

November? We await the Executive Committee’s timely decision.

Also Lost in the Pandemic – Group Hugs

If you have ever been in a group that needed to give someone a group hug, you know that there is nothing else that will do. And if you have ever been that person who needed a group hug, you also know there can be no substitute.

Here you see a group of Methodist teenagers in December, 2017, after they received news that their youth director was moving from Chapelwood 1 to Chapelwood 2 up the road in Houston. The hug was their spontaneous, genuine, and deeply felt gift. The photographer barely had time to point the camera.

This is not something that can ever happen in a Zoom meeting.

And that, my friends, is all our loss.

Remembering the Days of Our Innocence: Eating from the Party Table

Hover over the table with your friends. Everyone is commenting about how pretty the layout is. Stab an olive with a twice-used toothpick. It’s about saving the forests after all. Or glance furtively around the table. No one is looking. Grab one between thumb and index finger. Double dip the cheese melt with a cold green bean. No one noticed that first bite. Dip the other end. Hands are clean and dry. Now reach across the table and shake hands with a friend you haven’t seen in at least a week or two. On the return from that greeting, swoop down and land a chunk of sweet pineapple.

Moving on to the new year.

The crowd is still forming. Scotch eggs, maple-iced doughnuts, French roast coffee, artichoke dip, veggies, nuts, wassail. Before the morning passes, sixty or so friends will crowd in around the table, serve a plate, exchange greetings, and tell tales of the year gone by, hopes for the year ahead and mostly true stories from all the walks of community life.

Our love is manifest in food and words.

How will we greet 2021? There is virtually no safe and healthy way to do it the way we have been doing it. But January is so far in the future. We can hope.

Maybe You Miss It, Maybe You Don’t: Shaking Hands

Dads gave their sons lessons on the proper handshake. The lesson included the rule of never offering your hand to a lady unless she offered hers first. It emphasized the importance of a firm grip, but never a bone crusher. And that one should never, ever linger too long hand in hand.

The Queen looks on as the steward of Warwick Castle shares the warm embrace of hands with the master of the house.

By the time I was out of college, ladies (actually, they preferred to be called women by that time) offered their hands in greeting without forethought or remorse. It was so commonplace in our social life that we never thought much about its disease transmitting potential.

But then there was coronavirus and COVID-19. The gentleman’s warmest greeting was suddenly a life-threatening gesture. By the time we went into lockdown on March 13, I had already mastered the elbow bump but found only a couple of folks who knew exactly how to respond to my apparent act of aggression. Since then, I have not been around enough people to even think about elbow bumps, handshakes, cheek kisses, or anything else. At most, I offer a weak quasi-military salute. It works for most people.

Perhaps it will be the death of the handshake. Will anyone even remember the custom by the time (or, perhaps, if) we ever come out of lockdown? Will anyone miss it?

Things We Took for Granted: Big Summer Musicals

The Music Man cast raises The Center roof during a performance in July, 2018.

How spoiled we are in the Brazosport area to have Brazosport Center Stages performing in the Center for the Arts and Sciences. The summer musicals are a tradition our community looks forward to each year. Families make their plans around them. In fact, sometimes entire families are involved in shows, on stage and backstage. Each show involves large numbers of volunteers, cast members of all ages, and an adoring community filling the house for most performances.

The Music Man, Shrek, Mary Poppins, Fiddler on the Roof, Bye Bye Birdie, Les Mis─Śrables, Annie, 1776, Oliver and many more have been staged and many memories given to the community and the cast. If you have seen one of those shows, you have seen young people who went on to careers in performing arts.

Sadly, there will be no summer musical in 2020. Evidence is accumulating that there is nothing quite like a group of energetic singers in a closed space to spread coronavirus. Center Stages generates a large portion of its income budget from the summer musical each year. And they, in turn, pass on a sizeable share to support Center operation and maintenance.

Peter Pan was the show planned for 2020. Maybe it will happen some other time but not this year. Another lesson in the things we take for granted.

The Way We Were – the Things We Took for Granted

As I paged through some of my Flickr albums today, I began to take note of the things I had recorded in photos that seemed so common and unimportant at the the time but which, now, we miss utterly. I will share some of these over the next few days and maybe you can think of how your own life has changed since the middle of March, 2020.

It is Sunday and, once again, Chapelwood has delivered a service online as a way of reaching out to those who are not yet brave enough to venture out even for the limited in-person service they have offered for the last few weeks. But there are things you miss about the live service.

Being in the same room with a couple of hundred singing, praying, preaching Methodists offers an atmosphere – maybe more accurately an emanation – comprising the combined exhalations of the people in the room. On first noticing it, you think that maybe you are smelling your own breath. But none of the mingled scents match up with last night’s dinner or the morning breakfast. You have not had a garlic bagel. No onions, cilantro, spicy border dishes or chewing gum. It isn’t exactly halitosis, nor is it particularly unpleasant. But it is perhaps a little more intimate than you expect in a worship service.

But, on the other hand, maybe the shared breath is indicative of the very foundation of our lives and the need we have reaching out and establishing the intensity and depth of our community. It is the same breath we read that God breathed into the dust of the ground to create life.

It may seem musty, stale, unpleasant – even unhealthy – until it is gone. But you find, that for now, the virus has the upper hand and we must stand back. Methodist breath carries droplets that, in a crowded sanctuary, carry the threat of coronavirus. It is an intimacy that you miss when it is taken away.

There is still the yearning to reach out the hand of fellowship to your sisters and brothers in that experience of oneness under the rule of one who taught us to live simply, to live in community, to love, and to share.

My fellow United Methodists reach out the hand of fellowship to one another for one of the last times for the foreseeable future on December 22, 2019. We didn’t know how much that closeness would be missed in coming months. That touch and those mingled breaths strengthened all of us to live our lives more simply and morecourageously.