By Father Casey
The Christmas season has come and gone. Much as last year, we have been reminded that the hope of Christmas is not in the loveliness of our world, the perfection of our lives, or how well we can enact our holiday traditions. The Light that shines in the darkness, that no darkness can ever overcome, is not our nation or a political leader, or anything else of this world. The Light is Christ, and he continues to radiate unabated even as we begin another year assailed by sickness, anxiety, and exhaustion.
Light shines brightest in the darkest places, so even after he leaves the manger, do not stop looking to Christ – for hope, mercy, blessing, and peace – when things seem the hardest. Keep looking to Christ, whose way, truth, and life will shed the light we need to reach the end of this dark tunnel…even if it winds up being a bit longer than we had predicted.
For it is clear that the pandemic is not fading away just because we’re tired of it. Daily case counts in our country are nearly 500,000 and will not peak until late January. Thankfully, the percentage who are extremely sick is much lower than in previous spikes, but with so many infected, hospitals are still filling to their capacity. We are, yet again, nearing the breaking point. Please pray with the same fervency that you prayed in the earliest days of the pandemic: for the sick and those who treat them; for students, teachers, and parents; for leaders and all who make decisions of consequence; and for everyone in our society to become even more disciplined and selfless. May the Lord have mercy on us all.
Thanks to the serious way the people of Transfiguration have responded all along, including our extremely high rate of vaccination (98%), our community has been largely spared in this latest wave, with the infected experiencing mild symptoms. We may be glimpsing our future, when COVID eventually becomes just another virus that sickens many but is deadly in only a few, much as the virus that caused the pandemic 100 years ago eventually faded away. As strange as it may sound, Omicron may actually be a hopeful sign. And yet, we need to continue to practice caution with one another, and do the basic things that have proved consistently effective throughout at slowing the spread: vaccination, masks, and care when gathering.
These basic practices are the reason why, in 22 months, I do not know of a single case of COVID that was traced to a gathering at our church. Therefore, masks continue to be required by all when indoors, and refreshments can only be enjoyed outdoors (coffee in the Parlor will be suspended for the time being). Attendance has been averaging 50 on Saturday, 180 at the 9am, and 140 at the 11:15, all of which are well below 50% of our seating capacity. This means we have plenty of room to spread out, and the air circulates quite effectively through our 50 foot-high Nave to create a safe environment.
There are two changes we are making: services will be shortened to under an hour for the foreseeable future, and I ask that we discontinue close physical contact like handshakes or hugs. Even masked, these exchanges create unnecessary risk.
And so the life of Transfiguration goes on. A new set of adult formation offerings begins this weekend. Youth confirmation class starts soon. The 25 pilgrims to Oberammergau will meet next week to begin preparing for their summer journey. The Food Pantry continues to serve 30 households every month. Ministries and committees continue to meet to lead our church. Because our mission remains as important as ever, and by God’s grace, we will pursue it the whole year through.