The Most Rev. Michael Curry is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and the author of the upcoming book "Love Is the Way: Holding On to Hope in Troubling Times," due out Sept. 22.
Today, like Peter and the disciples, we must discern a new normal. The continued rise in cases of COVID-19 and the raising of voices in the streets following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have left us disoriented, uncertain, and confused, afraid of what we know and anxious about what we do not know. Our old normal has been upended, and we hunger for its return.
I do not say this from a lofty perch. I get it. There is a big part of me that wants to go back to January 2020 when I had never heard of COVID-19, and when I only thought of “Contagion” as a movie. Looking back through what I know are glasses darkened by loss, I find myself remembering January 2020 as a “golden age.”
But of course, January 2020 wasn’t perfect, not even close. And anyway, I can’t go back. None of us can go back. We must move forward. But we don’t know for sure what the new normal will be. Fortunately, God’s rubric of love shows us the way.
We’ve all been trying, making mistakes, learning, regrouping, trying anew. I’ve seen it. I’ve quietly read Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline online with you. I’ve seen soup kitchens, pantries, and other feeding ministries carefully doing their work in safe and healthy ways. There are Zoom coffee hours, Bible studies, and small discipleship groups. I’ve seen people of many faiths stand for the moral primacy of love. I’ve seen it, even when public health concerns supersede all other considerations, including in-person worship. That is moral courage. Who knows, but that love may demand more of us. But fear not, just remember what the old slaves used to say, walk together, children, and don’t you get weary, because there is a great camp meeting in the Promised Land. Oh, I’ve seen us do what we never thought we would or could do, because we dared to do what Jesus tells us all to do.
As our seasons of life in the COVID-19 world continue to turn, we are called to continue to be creative, to risk, to love. We are called to ask, What would unselfish, sacrificial love do?
What would love do? Love is the community praying together, in ways old and new. Love finds a path in this new normal to build church communities around being in relationship with God. Love supports Christians in spiritual practices. Prayer, meditation, study. Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest.
What would love do? Love calls us to care for our neighbors, for our enemies. Love calls us to attend to those in prison, to those who are homeless, to those in poverty, to children, to immigrants and refugees. Love calls us to be in relationship with those with whom we disagree.
What would love do? Love calls us to be gentle with ourselves, to forgive our own mistakes, to take seriously the Sabbath. Love calls us to be in love with God, to cultivate a loving relationship with God, to spend time with God, to be still and know that God is God.
A few weeks ago when so many things were happening, both in our country and in our wider world, I was on a Zoom call with a member of our staff working on videos and interviews and it was so much and so chaotic, I remember just saying, "Let's just stop, and pray."
And the prayer I prayed was a prayer from The Book of Common Prayer. It's toward the end of the prayer book on page 832 called “For Quiet Confidence.” This prayer is based on a time in the life of the prophet Isaiah, when the people of Judah and Jerusalem were living in a time when their country was in turmoil and things were uncertain and chaos seemed to be ruling.
The prophet Isaiah said, "You must remember that it is in returning and rest, that you will be saved; in quietness and confidence, you will find your strength." And this is the prayer we prayed and I offer it for all of us. Let us pray:
Oh, God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and in rest, we shall be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength. By the might of thy Spirit, lift us, we pray thee to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
God love you and keep the faith.