Dear St. Paul’s family, 

We are hearing a lot about plans to restart the economy and relax stay-home orders, while public health experts warn us that the pandemic still has a long way to run. The mixture of messages is confusing; I find myself longing for a single message: just tell us what to do! When this feeling overwhelms me, I try to step back and notice the complicated tangle of feelings and dynamics that surrounds us. 

Although it may seem like we are just staying home, this is actually a traumatic experience: we are all grieving some aspect of life or relationship that is out of our reach right now; we are anxious about the possibility or reality of ourselves or loved ones getting sick with the virus; we are hearing about celebrities that we admire, some of them young, succumbing to their illness; some of us are experiencing financial hardship; and we don’t know when this will definitively be over. This is a daunting list of challenges to be facing all at once. It all adds up to a condition where our brains are not functioning at their best, it’s hard to be creative, and it’s hard to find motivation for daily tasks.  

I am experiencing all of this myself and I’m frustrated by the conflict between the reality of this trauma and my desire to keep us moving forward, to feel and project hope, to give you all good news and cast a vision of a bright future. With the installation of the construction crane last weekend we are about to start seeing the new building rise, and the developers tell us that we might be able to move in at the beginning of 2022. The pressure is mounting to come up with firm plans for how the building will serve us and our community. At the same time, we don’t know what church will look like in two years: will we be able to use large gathering spaces? Will the community ever want to come together in crowds? Will our online ministry become a permanent and prominent part of our mission? Will our future income support our dreams? 

Chapter initiated a strategic planning effort several months ago, and of course the COVID crisis has affected that work. We cannot simply keep ploughing on with goals and objectives as if nothing has changed. I doubt that we will ever go back to the old normal, and we don’t yet know what the new normal will be. So I ask for your patience as we discern where God might be leading us in this new reality. I’ve said this before and I will keep saying it: we need to be kind to ourselves and others, making allowances for the need to grieve, understanding when we accidentally displace our anxiety onto each other. There is Biblical guidance, or at least precedence, for a time like this. Not only does Genesis describe the chaos that precedes new creation, but in the New Testament we are taught to live in the “already but not yet”, to live fully in the now while maintaining hope for a bright future that is as yet undefined. This is what it means to live into the Kingdom of God, and God is guiding us. Whatever church will look like in the future, it will be God’s beloved community and we can focus, day by day, on living the way of love, whoever we are and wherever we find ourselves in this journey of faith. 

Your sister in Christ, 
Penny 

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8 thoughts on “Dean Letter: Already and Not Yet”

  1. As always, I feel comforted by your words. The last lines in your letter help me to remember all my good friends at St. Paul’s, the beautiful and meaningful words spoken by you, Jeff and guest speakers, the choir’s beautiful music.
    I’ve been wearing a small cross since the quarantine began. I touch it frequently during the day to remind me this Coming will be so special, so wonderful. And it will be!
    Judy Moore

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  2. Dear Penny,
    Your candor about how this affects you personally is affirming. We must continue trying to be kind to ourselves, as well as others. I am truly grateful for the leadership, creativity and resourcefulness you, Jeff, the musicians and so many others are showing at this time. Ken and I have been at St. Paul's for 62 years, and have never been prouder.
    Ann Gary

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  3. Thank you, Penny, for sharing your own frustration with us. I often find myself being "fuzzy brained" – unable to focus, unable to motivate – and sometimes not really caring that I feel that way.
    Then I read things like what you wrote and get a good dose of reality. And I am urged from being "fuzzy brained" to having clarity.
    I won't say I like it – – not one bit! But slowly — very slowly, I'm coming to accept this new reality.
    Michael Clark

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  4. Your sharing your own feelings about the current problem echoes those of many of us. Until the last few days, I had never understood the difference between depression and garden variety sadness. But the malaise of depression, a feeling bordering on hopelessness came over me recently, the result of this prolonged staying away from friends and the cathedral family. It's an odd feeling, and I had some trouble rising out of it but I did by singing hymns. Someone saintly once said, "He who sings, prays twice." Hymns are instant connections to the Spirit of God, combining harmony with hope, providing uplifting praise, and for me, the cure for depression.

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  5. Thank you for your patient guidance and much-needed consolation. I’m so grateful to be a member of this community and its many blessings.

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  6. From afar, it is still comforting to hear your honesty and hope. It is hard to just be at a time like this, but maybe this just gives us time to really listen to God and discern what and how our lives will be in the future.

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  7. Gracias por esas alentadoras palabras en estos momentos Dean Penni.

    Dios nos de la fuerza para salir adelante y sanos, unidos en oracion comun por la salud, la esperanza y la paz de todos. Como reza el salmo 23: 'no temere mal alguno; porque tu vas conmigo; tu vara y tu cayado me alientan y fortalecen'.

    Animo para todos, y que Dios bendiga a quienes trabajan pastoralmente y en el campo de la salud, a los rescatistas y todos los que en estos momentos colaboran por el bein del pueblo sufriente y necesitado.

    Abrazos de Salvador y Veronica

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