Reopening, Resurrection, and Remaining in Place
Like many of us, I’m sure, there have been more than a handful of moments throughout the past six weeks where I’ve felt overwhelmed by news related to the CoronaVirus. Concern for the growing number of cases. Empathy for the first responders and workers on the front lines. Anger at the national administration’s response to the crisis, or perhaps, lack thereof. Mingled frustration and understanding that we’re looking at several more weeks of stay home orders. I’ve had to evaluate and re-evaluate how and when I’m taking in this news, learning along the way that having breaking news notifications activated on my phone, and scrolling through my news apps right before bed are not helpful practices for me right now, but also probably never.
In addition, I’ve been immensely grateful to live in a state whose leadership has looked to the wisdom of public health officials, and evidence-based statistics when making hard decisions about the reopening of North Carolina. As I listened to Governor Roy Cooper’s press conference earlier this week as he carefully and calmly laid out plans to return to some sense of “normal” life in three phases, tears formed at the corners of my eyes as I glimpsed hope out on the horizon, but also felt the weight of how long we have to go before we get to that point.
I was reminded during a conversation with my colleagues, Imam Shane and Rabbi Sandra, last week how grief has not discriminated based on religion this year as Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have all had to readjust how they mark the major religious observances of Ramadan, Passover, and Easter because of challenges created by the CoronaVirus. Grief has been present in each of our respective communities as we’ve mourned the ability to mark these occasions in the time-honored, traditional manners of years passed. And yet, these holy-days have not gone by without recognition and meaning, even though that’s looked differently this year.
I’ve been particularly grateful for the Gospel stories the sacred text of my own Christian tradition has to offer in these past few weeks following Easter. Of course, I’ve found hope and comfort in the resurrection narrative which tells us that death does not get the final word, but perhaps more so, I’ve found comfort in the stories that tell us how Jesus’ disciples experienced the resurrection. In John’s Gospel, we hear how Thomas was filled with doubt and refused to believe the Good News before seeing Jesus’ body with his own eyes, and touching Jesus’ body with his own hands (John 20:19-31). In Luke’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus walked along the road to the village of Emmaus with two disciples who did not recognize Jesus, but shared their seemingly unfulfilled hopes and sorrows with him. It wasn’t until they shared a meal together that the recognized Jesus for who he was (Luke 24:13-35).
I can’t help but feel that for me, the slow re-opening of North Carolina will be similar to how the disciples experienced the resurrection. Immense gratitude that there are opportunities for hope and renewed community following great tragedy. Doubt that we’ll really be able to move on from such loss and grief and anguish. Blindness to the ways in which my hopes are actually coming to life around me. Newfound appreciation and awareness of the gift of sharing a meal with friends.
Today, while stay at home orders are still in place and cases of the virus continue to rise in many places, I trust that our waiting is not in vain. That disruption to our normal life is making space for others to live, and bringing into clearer focus the sanctity of life.
Julie Tonnesen is the Campus Minister for LEAF (Lutherans, Episcopalians, and friends), is the co-advisor for the Interfaith LLC, and works with Protestant Life at Elon. She is also a 2014 graduate of Elon, and earned her M.Div. from Duke Divinity School in May 2019. Julie serves as Vicar (intern) at Macedonia Lutheran Church in Burlington, NC. and is a candidate for ordination in the Lutheran church (ELCA). Julie loves supporting students, reading, and spending time outside with her dog, Gracie.