This morning I saw a commercial for one of our local car dealerships. It was a commercial as on any other day in any other week, as though things are the same today as they were two weeks ago. Or a week ago, before schools began their who-knows-exactly-how-long closures. Before our adult children “sequestered” us. Before our County and City Officials issued a Stay-in-Place Order. And here was that local car commercial. Reminding us of the quality of the brand and the excellent care of its dealership. The pretty people and the pretty cars. The message that everyone needs a new car and can afford one. It made me think about my 2005 Mercury Montego with over 213,000 miles on it. The car that’s carried me back and forth and up and down the state of Missouri and beyond since 2007. My beloved car who’s already costing more than she’s essentially worth. But how essential is a new car, I ask myself. Essential enough to qualify as an excuse to break sequestering stay-in-placing to venture out for something deemed essential by our City and County Order? And I had to wonder whether or not the need for a new car and the dealerships that sell them are considered to be “essential.” Are car dealerships considered to be essential for our infrastructure and basic needs, akin to grocery stores and pharmacies? What is essential?
Yesterday’s six o’clock news had an interview with the owner of a local landscaping business who was standing next to one of his crews who were busily switching Spring’s daffodils and tulips for Winter’s plants. The interviewer was asking the landscaping owner whether or not he considered his business to be essential. The owner said he could make the case one way or the other and added that they would continue to bring Spring until he was told otherwise. Is beauty and the reminder of seasons that come and go essential in ugly times when time seems to stand still and today is more frightening than yesterday and yesterday even more so than last week? Than two weeks ago? What is essential?
And, of course, I can’t help but think about the Church and about congregations. In this time when more than two or ten are no longer to gather together in the same place, not even six-feet apart, we are faced with that questions, “What is essential?” Most of us agree that worship is essential. But those of us in traditions that observe Communion, the Eucharist, each week have to wrestle with the essentiality of the weekly sharing of the Lord’s Last Supper? Is Communion still Communion if you’re communing by yourself in the comfort of your own room? Just how essential is Communion? Some of us have moved our Studies and Classes and Small Groups into Virtual Rooms; yet I’d venture to guess that more of us are struggling with how to make sure everyone can get to the Virtual Board Meeting. Can you have the monthly Council Meeting in any format but in person? Is a Vestry Meeting still a Vestry Meeting if you’re attending via your computer? And again I find myself asking How essential are Board/Council/Vestry/Session Meetings?!?
What essential business is there to discuss, anyways? How to get people into a study or class or small group? How to make sure everyone can virtually make it to worship? How to make sure everyone can get what they need to celebrate Communion in community with one another, connected across time and space by Jesus Who is never virtual or merely virtually there. What is essential? That’s the business of the Church. Stop talking about it. Make it happen. Do it.