Easter reflections in a global pandemic

by Amy Wright Glenn

Easter feels different this year. I get it.

We won’t be gathering out back with the Religious Education (RE) children and watching them scamper and giggle and shout as they discover treasure in brightly colored eggs. Rev. Harris won’t be passing out annual flowering plants as symbols of spring’s renewal. Taber and I have a tradition of planting the Easter plant given by Rev Harris ~ as she gives one out to all RE children ~  in our garden. That won’t happen this year. While we still visit the garden, it’s different right now. Yes, we still pick our mulberries which are currently in season. And we prepare plots for planting black eyed peas, but we do so with each other alone. We plan our outings around our friends so as to ensure the children don’t interact as we can’t trust them to steadily keep the necessary yards apart from each other ~ after all, how can you play in a garden as a group of 8-year-olds while maintaining social distancing? So, we plan around them and we miss them a lot.

Of course, I understand that Easter is different this year because of many right reasons. We must protect the most vulnerable amongst us from exposure to the virus that causes Covid-19. And while some countries like Iceland and Sweden have taken aggressive measures to do so ~ they have also left their society overall intact. Children still go to school, people ~ in smaller numbers yes ~ still gather. Yet, we don’t have their universal testing, we don’t have their universal health care. And we watch them curiously, will their approach even work?

Easter is a time of renewal and in the United States, in this age of our global Covid-19 pandemic, it’s terribly clear to so many of us that our systems of health care, commerce, and wealth distribution are in desperate need of renewal. As Heather Cox Richardson noted in her Letters from an American Easter post: “[The novel coronavirus] has revealed that self-serving politicians are indifferent to the lives of their constituents, that racial disparities in healthcare and poverty have created a deadly caste system, and that political partisanship has become so toxic that some people would literally rather die than listen to leadership from a member of another party.”

Over 2,000 years ago, a man born in Bethlehem sought to renew the systems around him.  He sought to bring renewal to his people ~ for the religious authorities in his community had decided to make allies with an oppressive force in order to safeguard their vested interest ~ and far too many in his community were poor, marginalized, and downtrodden, left to the wayside, discarded. Perhaps these patterns sound familiar. Yet, even as 2 billion people on earth lift up the story of this man, lift up his story and revere him as God incarnate, we still struggle to live up to the renewing social vision he sought to bring forth.

I pause and consider why this is so. I wonder what it is about human nature, about our ego and quest for control or power that too often eclipses our softer, wiser, and more gentler energies. I pause and wonder what this Easter will bring us ~ as we gather around our screens to sing and praise and pray. As we gather collectively, alone. For those of us with children, we will hide eggs around the house or surprise our little ones with Easter baskets in our front rooms.

Flowers open from hard seeds. They open when the pressure builds and then they burst into color. We are in a time of hard seeds. Family rituals ~ from work to school ~  have collapsed onto each other, collapsed into the same space and time ~ day after day, over and over again each day. Without a break, for those of us living in a family system, we live in relentless interaction. Yes, we can get out and bike ride or walk, but day after day after day, we are in a pressure cooker together awaiting news about this virus.

When will the social distancing restrictions lift? And when they do, how much of this deep togetherness will our hearts so genuinely miss?  Will we feel safe enough to venture out in groups again? Or will sanctuary-at-home policies be lifted too early, only to satisfy the cravings of commerce?

So many questions. And that’s the main thing. I want my Easter message as the Director of Religious Education of our beloved UU fellowship to be one of flowered hope and beauty. One of renewal. But this is a season of hard seeded questions. For, we are still in the seed form. We still await the renewal. We still work and sacrifice, as that man from 2,000 years ago did ~ as Jesus did ~ to challenge the injustices that have become so apparent in our world through this Covid-19 pandemic.

So my reflections to you are full of questions.

And as UUs, we know there’s wisdom found in the questioning.

Yet, there’s also wisdom found in hope. So, in this pressure cooker, let us pause and consider our own nature. Perhaps, as we do, we may get a glimpse of the beauty we may become when this storm runs out of rain and the seeds open again.

*Amy Wright Glenn serves as Director of Religious Education for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton. These are the words she shared with the UUFBR community on Easter Sunday, April 12th 2020 as the fellowship gathered for worship via Zoom.