By Charles Hoffacker
Micanopy, Florida is an eclectic rural community best known for its antique shops and art galleries. It includes an Episcopal congregation, the Church of the Mediator, where on a typical Sunday, twenty or twenty-five people gather. All the ingredients of a eucharistic assembly are there and no one gets overlooked in this hearty community of faith. Mediator is a good place to meet Jesus through word, sacrament, and community.
As is the case in countless other churches around the globe, services at Mediator have been suspended indefinitely by order of the bishop. Mediator is a dispersed congregation; it has not gathered for a while. But it is still alive. Members stay in touch through whatever means of remote communication are available to them. They remain united with one another in Christ through living prayerful lives.
On Palm Sunday, the warden went to the church and scattered palm fronds on the walkway that leads to the church door. On Easter Day, he returned there and rang the church bell to announce the Resurrection to the world. That same day, the Deacon Diane Whallon, dressed as the Easter Donkey, delivered Easter baskets to elderly and shut-in members. (Yes, the Easter Donkey practices appropriate social distancing!)
Not everyone can respond to the pandemic in the same way. Some people are able to shelter, perhaps to work from home. Others go forth to their jobs as essential workers who face daily danger. Some churches livestream services; others, like Mediator, do not have this capacity and its members participate in online services offered by other parishes. These different approaches can unify us more closely as we respect each other, address each other’s needs, and recognize that we are all in this together.
The people of Mediator are exercising responsibility for their health and the health of others. At the same time, they are eager to return to God’s house, to the house of the church, to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. For now they are waiting in faith and hope and love. But this is what the church on earth keeps doing anyway, wait in faith and hope and love to encounter Jesus in still another new way until he returns for the final time.