Dear parishioners and friends of St. Dunstan's,
One of the greatest disappointments for me as your Rector during this time of separation has been not being able to gather with you for the Easter Vigil last month. (Was it really only last month?) Of all the liturgies in the Church year, I find the Vigil to be the most powerful: it is a service rich in symbolism, as we move from the darkness of death and the tomb into the new light and life of Easter. The Vigil includes several readings from Hebrew Scripture recounting "salvation history," or the story of God's saving relationship with God's people throughout the generations. Taken together, these lessons paint a hopeful picture of God's enduring faithfulness – even in (especially in) the face of human suffering.
My favorite Vigil reading comes from the prophet Zephaniah, who says
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst...
Zephaniah goes on to share God's promise that, after a period of desolation and exile, God’s people will, eventually, have cause to rejoice:
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord
(Zephaniah 3:16-17, 20).
I have always loved Zephaniah's vision of hope, and I have found myself returning to it time and again over these past several weeks. I have clung to this notion of being brought home: home to our beautiful church building, and - even more importantly - home to our warm, joyful, life-giving community of faith. I have missed you all desperately.
I know that I am not alone in longing for our St. Dunstan's home. As we begin to hear about places in Maryland, DC, and Virginia "opening up" in the coming weeks, we are probably all starting to wonder when and how we will be able to come home to our beloved church. It has been a long time of desolation and exile, and I'm sure that many of us are eager for our "fortunes" to be restored.
While we’re not there quite yet, I do want you to know that your parish leadership, in consultation with the Bishop of Washington, is working thoughtfully and prayerfully to prepare for the day when God does gather us again. Earlier this week your Vestry and I met and discussed at length many of the factors that will need to be considered before we can open our doors for public worship. Subsequently, I received a series of documents from the Diocese that will guide our careful planning. I now am in the process of calling together a “Regathering Team,” comprised of Vestry and other parishioners, who will work with me to think through the various contingencies to the best of our ability, given the information currently available. This is, of course, an iterative process, so I pray that we all can be flexible and open-minded as we move forward cautiously and in faith. The safety of our parishioners remains our highest priority.
I cannot say at this point exactly what to expect in the coming weeks, but I covenant to be as transparent as I am able and to keep you updated regularly. For the time being we will continue with our Sunday morning Zoom worship services which, while imperfect (Lord knows!), do afford us a precious opportunity to see and hear from each other. I am confident that, even after we are able to meet in person again, we also will offer some form of online worship – be it livestreamed or recorded – for those who are not yet ready to be present with us physically. Stay tuned!
As always, I invite and encourage you to be in touch with me to share your ideas and concerns, and I ask your indulgence a little while longer as we figure this out. I am so grateful for your support, patience, and general good humor during our exile, and I wait with eager anticipation for our homecoming.
The Lord our God is, indeed, in our midst, and we need never be afraid.
Your Sister in Christ,