Covid Pastoral Letter Week Easter 5



A printable PDF is available HERE.

In last week’s letter, I wrote about a mother bird nesting in the tall grasses of my semi-wild backyard with her four eggs. Over the week several of you have inquired as to the well-being of this little family. I’ve been keeping a protective watch over them while trying to maintain enough distance so as not to disturb the parents. But for this letter, I carefully parted the grasses for a quick look. Great news! They’ve hatched! They are so tiny, so fragile, so vulnerable! They are so hungry! Which is why, I realized, there’s been increased back and forthing to the nest by mother and father. The babies have not yet fledged (grown feathers enough for flight), and they are still pretty naked as you can see. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology it takes about the same amount of time for babies to fledge as it does for eggs to hatch. And so far, despite my worry about their choice of nesting spot, the family is safe.

Several of you shared your own bird stories with me after last week’s letter. Here’s one from Dick and Claire Griffin.

“We have two hanging flower baskets outside our front door. In late March, we noticed that a pair of Juncos were spending a lot of time flying back and forth between one of the baskets and the surrounding area. Obviously having decided that one of the flower baskets constituted an ideal protected place, they were industriously building a nest. We were a little skeptical about their selection, because members of the Franke Tobey Jones grounds crew spend a fair amount of time on a riding lawnmower, roaring around on our front lawn, passing back and forth, and back and forth, mere steps from the basket in question. Not only that, but another member of the grounds crew follows up by periodically blasting our driveway and sidewalk with a power blower, removing debris left by the riding lawnmower guy. Hardly an ideal location for bringing off some babies, we thought. Oh we of little faith! On Palm Sunday, the female laid her clutch of four eggs. On Orthodox Easter, the eggs hatched, and, finally, on May 1st, the fledglings left the nest. Success! Dick and Claire Griffin”

Apparently birds know what they’re doing after all.

In an earlier letter, I wrote of The Society of Saint John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an Anglican Monastic Community where I spent many days on retreat. Just this week, I received one of their occasional letters to Community Friends, which brought with it a bird meditation from Brother Curtis Almquist, SSJE, an essay on waiting and patience.

“Jesus’ arms hold new life. For many years, robins have nested on the wooden crucifix in the monastery cloister. This spring, for nearly two weeks, a mother and father robin have taken turns like a tag team “sitting tight” on the eggs, while the other mate searches for food. Once the eggs are hatched, the fledglings will leave the nest when they are ready for their maiden flight in about two weeks. Meanwhile, there is a great deal of waiting.

“Waiting figures prominently in creation. The gestation and development of flowers and trees, of animals, fish, birds and human beings follow a cadence that resists being rushed. In a dark night, you may wish for the dawn to come soon; but, of course, it will come on its own time. We are waiting now for the resolution of the Coronavirus crisis; however for so many of us, that timeframe is beyond our control. Even if we are agents in the resolution of the pandemic – being health care workers, research scientists, government or corporate leaders, or among the countless numbers of people who, by their work, are making life possible for others – we still face an element of waiting for what is beyond our ultimate control. We are working, and we are waiting. We must be patient.

“The English word ‘patience,’ comes from the Latin patientia which is a ‘quality of suffering.’ And suffering you are as you wait patiently, hopefully, sometimes desperately for a resolution. Patience also means dependence, exposure, being no longer in control of your own situation, being the object of what is done. Living life patiently is very difficult to do.

“Living life patiently is not the only way to navigate life. Some situations we face in life just now require aggressive responses; however patience also needs to be an active word in your soul’s vocabulary. When the answer is not forthcoming, when something is not being resolved, when the door isn’t being opened, when someone is not acquiescing, when you have lost any sense of controlling your circumstances, there is also an invitation for patience. It’s ‘to wait, like watchmen waiting for the morning,’ (Psalm 130).

“Waiting is difficult. You may have a predisposition that you shouldn’t have to wait. But these days we all are having to wait. Pray for the gift of God’s power, provision, patience, that this huge trial we now face also be a time of gestation for new life beyond which you could have imagined. Pray for the strength you need just now to work and to wait.”

I waited patiently upon the LORD; he stooped to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.

Psalm 40:1-2

Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE




So much to learn from the rhythms of nature and our fellow creatures the birds. So much to learn from this pandemic, this particular manifestation of the disorder and damage we human creatures, in our arrogance and carelessness, have visited upon God’s creation. Brother Curtis speaks of new life coming from the terrible fear and suffering of this experience. As we do our best to wait with patience through this strange springtime and into tan unknown summer, may we also consider and work toward how we might be part of a springtime of new life, health and well-being beyond what we may have imagined.

Please be extra cautious in your care for yourself and others as the society around us begins to reopen. With increased activity and increased encounters with others comes increased risk of infection. Not enough is yet understood about how this virus works to be sure of the outcome of reopening. A lot will depend on our willingness and that of others to adhere to recommended safe practices. Impatience, a rush to return to a normal that no longer exists, could be our downfall.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly said, we need to stand with some humility before the unknown. So wash your hands, avoid touching your face, practice physical distancing, wear a mask when you are around others in public, stand with humility before the unknown, and be patient.

With love for you in Christ,


Wednesday Evening Conversation and Compline via Zoom, Wednesdays 7:00 – 8:15 p.m. Check out this weekly opportunity for parish connection: A parish-wide email invitation is sent out each Wednesday morning with a link to that evening’s gathering. We begin with some words from me, then are “magically” separated into breakout rooms for a chance to chat in small groups for about 45 minutes, and then are “magically” brought back together to conclude our time with Compline, the church’s nighttime prayer.

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