Before Facebook has a chance to tell you, I will: November is my birth month. It’s a special one too: 65.
I am only the Beatles’ proverbial “When I’m 64” a few more days. Because I’m not quite 65 yet, I could go in-person on All Saints’ Day to Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, USA. I served as the lay reader. I joined the skeleton of others—sound engineer, videographer, presider, preacher, organist and four-part quartet—who have been blessedly creating, with God’s help, our online service each Sunday for almost eight months.
It used to be, before Coronatide, we thought of ourselves according to the Eucharist we attended on Sunday mornings. We were 8 o’clockers, 9 o’clockers and 11 o’clockers. Now we are Zoom O’clockers.
Yes, there is clear serendipity in worshipping together at the time that the service is actually livestreamed. I have experienced it many times in community simultaneously, usually clad in my pajamas.
Some say getting dressed for the day, having the service leaflet printed or available on a screen for reference helps one to focus. I know watching the hymn review provided by our fabulous musicians the Thursday before also helps.
Now, after Election Day, in the liminal space of waiting, I am getting around to posting. Yesterday my old computer was decidedly on the brink. So was I. Now I am looking for ways to soothe myself; I know writing and sharing helps. Plus the little-laptop-that-could is cooperating. Back to my reflections from the beginning of the week, seemingly eons ago.
Regarding the value of virtual church:
I have found the ability to organically watch the service (or even parts of the service—the sermon, for instance) means I never miss it. And since I usually stream from home, worship with others in my community has become my day-to-day reality. If I need to, I can also help my mother tap into FaceTime with her siblings around the country and from coast-to-coast—they gather at 2 PM East Coast Time, precisely the start time of our main livestream. So, I help her, chat with my aunts, uncles and cousins and then come back to the service later. I can even watch a football game, I don’t mind saying, when the Seahawks draw the early start time. And I can recommend the service to others anywhere in the world to watch during their awake time. That said, the archived version is always available even in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.
On the Feast of All Saints, I saw how the oh-so-delicious service sausage is made, starting with the health sign-in questions. Some of the ingredients were obvious beforehand. I knew I would be reading from Revelation, the fanciful prophecy about All Evolving into Spirit. Thanks to our tradition of reading from the lectionary, we read the same passage that is recited in many Christian churches around the globe. I knew it would be paired with the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel. I knew the offertory music would be Aaron Copland’s adaptation of Lowry’s “At the River” because Rob and I had submitted our bass and alto contributions for the virtual choir rendition.
After softening into scripture and listening to an exquisite homily–the priest told us the readings have the same message–I read the intercessory prayers authored by my new friend. I inserted the names of my aunt and my first cousin who are healing from COVID19 as well as many others who are suffering and who have died. I felt then that one can pray quietly to God in public held in the container of a cathedral balanced on glacial till, land borrowed from the Duwamish. I learned I can hold tears on the brink of falling and only choke slightly when reading “By Your grace may they come into Your peace knowing Your welcome, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ ”
Unlike those trying to watch, I hadn’t realized until the service ended that the livestream broadcast had failed. Disappointment hung in the air when we debriefed together in a wide circle held in the nave. I was glad to know we could lean into zoom o’clock in all her glory because, as usual, the service would be uploaded and archived. All was not lost. I learned that some of these musicians, priests and electronic wizards would be attending, recording, livestreaming and uploading five services throughout the day. The schedule was grueling and not unlike what some amongst us do for our high holidays like Advent, Christmas, Holy Week and Easter.
As a result and Thanks be to God, I have a different service to watch every day this week, if I add the ones from the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and Misa Guadalupe at St. Luke’s Episcopal in Renton. By then, Election Day will pass and we’ll see what’s next. And soon enough, we’ll be back to Sunday and the next round of zoom o’clock services will start all over again.