A Note from the Rector – 08/15/2021

My favorite mask is black with gold skulls on it. Isn’t that an incredibly weird thing to say: not just my choice of favorite mask, but the very fact that I have one at all? Who could have predicted 2 years ago that we would all have such a visceral relationship with masks? Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve spent way more time thinking about masks then you ever thought you would. When we first reopened the church for in-person worship early last summer, masks were a requirement passed down to us by the diocese. Headed into this summer—when new infections were down and access to the vaccine was opening up—the CDC relaxed it recommendations about masking for those who were vaccinated and our diocese adopted the same approach. 
 
But, now infection rates are rising very quickly again. The evidence we have at this moment suggests that vaccinated people can make others sick even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms themselves, and the CDC is again recommending that everyone wear masks indoors. The diocese has not moved back to a mask mandate, however, the bishop now strongly recommends that we return to wearing masks 100% of the time while inside the church. So, this is a request, not a requirement: please wear a mask when you come to church on Sunday morning. If you don’t, the ushers will not throw you out. I certainly will not treat you any differently, or withhold communion or prayer. You know we live in strange times when it would even occur to me to reassure you of something like that. 
 
A big part of our problem is that masks (and vaccines and many other aspects of this pandemic) have become so politicized. Last summer, I wrote in one of these notes that the reason we don’t like masks as a symbol is that they remind us of our vulnerability. They serve to remind us that we are not entirely in control of our health, or any other aspect of our lives. Since most masks are not primarily for self-protection but for the preventing the mask-wearer from spreading the virus, masks are a very real reminder that our health is dependent to some degree each other’s choices. The same is true in regards to vaccination and the emergence of new variants of the virus. We all live (and die!) with the ramifications of each other’s choices, good or bad. Like it or not, we are responsible for each other’s well-being and not just our own. We didn’t choose this, but neither can we deny it. Independence is a lie.  We’ve always been and we always will be inter-dependent on each other. And while life’s responsibilities derive from our inter-dependence on each other, so do all of life’s greatest joys. Inter-dependence is the basis of our relationships, our loves, our moments of joy and sharing, even our faith. The fact of our inter-dependence on each other is related to the fact that we are our dependent on God.
 
That brings me back to why the mask with gold skulls is my favorite. It’s a memento mori, a reminder of death. Just as surely as we are inter-dependent on each other is that fact that we will all die. Reminders of death are important for us Christians, not because we’re morbid, but because you can’t be reminded of the resurrection of Jesus Christ unless you are reminded first of death. If we ignore or shy away from death, we are missing out on the only actual source of hope that we have—Christ has conquered death. The only way out of death is through it, and Christ has pioneered a safe passage through it for us. Christ will accompany us every step of the way. Similarly, the only way out of this pandemic is through it. Ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t affect us won’t help. What helps is to remember that even in the middle of this plague—this valley of the shadow death—Christ is with us. He will not abandon or us forsake us, ever. Because of Him we can be here for each other, helping to bear each other’s burdens, putting up with each other’s foibles, and we can get through this together. The only way out is through. So, with Christ’s help, let’s get through. Please wear a mask. Please get vaccinated. Please don’t give in to despair. 

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