I’m a minister, and during Holy Week, I tested positive for COVID-19.
The Thursday night before Palm Sunday, I began to feel off and tucked into bed earlier than usual. Tossing and turning through the night, I woke up and was clearly sick. My mind raced through how to isolate. I texted our office administrator, letting her know I would be working from home that day. Hoping it was not COVID-19, I tested that afternoon and a negative result showed.
My body slunk from the couch to the fridge for something to drink and back to the couch, with an occasional visit to the bathroom. Energy was low.
I managed to briefly imagine what it would be like not to be part of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter Sunday with the congregation. An ache grew each time I tried to stomach the possibility. The rhythm, story, tradition, ritual and tangible quality to Holy Week had nourished me for decades.
When I awoke on Saturday after a fitful sleep, the test revealed a positive result. Instantly, I moved into practical mode.
My first call was to Jane Westmorland, the chair of the worship team. Together we came up with a plan that included her reading the story I had written for the next day, Palm Sunday, and increased participation from some people who were involved in worship already. I wondered how to coordinate the rest of the week with waning energy. The tentacles of COVID-19 crept their way through various parts of my body as Jane and I spoke.
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My church, Avondale United has many capable people who can lead worship. This Holy Week demonstrated that repeatedly. Thanks to technology and mustering energy from somewhere, I managed to record a Good Friday and Easter Sunday message.
The summons from the congregation for the week was to rest. God’s summons may have been closer to “let it go.” Surrendering my involvement in trying to create a meaningful Holy Week for the congregation was not easy. How would I live Holy Week if not waving palm branches on Sunday, eating at the table on Thursday, standing at the foot of the cross on Friday and gathering with others to hear news of an empty tomb on Sunday? I needed those touchstones to mark the path for me. A graced gravitational pull usually grabbed hold of me Holy Week. I counted on being led. What would happen this year?
When a newspaper reporter called me late Maundy Thursday afternoon and asked if I had a few moments to talk about Avondale’s plan for the weekend, I agreed. Over the course of our conversation, I heard myself talk about the significant work that people at the church had done through the pandemic. Yes, it would be our first Easter in person since 2019 and thanks to the vision of the congregation, hybrid worship is now a regular part of our mission.
The week called Holy was a blessed mess. Betrayal, denial, absence and death by execution. The One we follow was raised during this week. You may have been raised amidst a pandemic, prolonged fatigue, mental health concerns, isolation, crankiness or contracting COVID-19. This Easter, resurrection came for me with wounds made whole by the journey. We need each other, thank God.
Keith Reynolds is a minister at Avondale United in Stratford, Ont.
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