Alleluia in Quarantine

By: Rachel Balducci

Isabel celebrated her tenth birthday last week, right here in this crazy time of quarantine.

Amy Parris, Isa’s fourth-grade teacher, has been meeting with the students online every day for about an hour of reading. On Isabel’s birthday, we signed in to the group chat, and there were all her classmates, along with Mrs. Parris and daughter Felicity, wearing special hats to celebrate Isa’s special day! Everyone had on a hat – either a special party hat or funny mask or fancy crown. One boy had a baseball cap with a sign taped to the front that said, “Happy Birthday, Isabel!”

It was so sweet I started to cry.

This really is a strange time, and while there is so much negative we could focus on I’m struck every day by the moments of grace. What a special memory Isabel will have of seeing all her classmates and teacher honoring her this way!

Last week, 75 women signed in to Zoom (which by now we all know about!) for a women’s meeting. It was an incredible 40 minutes, and so special to see the faces of so many women I miss! The meeting didn’t have the energy or vibe that it would have if we were gathered in the gym, but the grace was there. It boosted me! I went away encouraged and rejuvenated from seeing my sisters, and I’ve heard from so many other women who felt the same.

I was talking to Bob Garrett about all of this, about living community during a time when being “communal” isn’t allowed. And he agreed that while community looks different right now, there is still a lot to love about this time.

“This is a time for renewal and refreshment, a time to deepen ourselves spiritually,” Bob said. It’s a time to be creative about things like activities and relationships and how we live community life, he said.

For several months, Paul and I have had a desire to be more proactive in our community activities. Instead of feeling like we are given a calendar and told where to go and what to do, we want to be a part of making the life happen.

Don’t get me wrong — getting a calendar is a logical and necessary part of this life. It’s not a bad thing, and it’s important for leadership to have a plan.

But it’s very easy to sit back and not feel connected, as though we are not an active part of what’s going on. That’s not good. We need to be involved! We need to take ownership of this life!

To me, taking personal ownership of our life in Alleluia is something very positive that can come from this time. We aren’t driving down to the gym every Thursday at 7 p.m. right now. But that doesn’t mean we have to feel isolated. We can set up group chats online or reach out to people around us. We can find creative ways to build community that don’t involve a meeting (since we just can’t do that right now).  Write letters and mail them or leave them on a front stoop. Send meaningful text messages. Take a walk and wave from afar!

Bob said he’s seen more people out walking around Leslie Circle (almost a parade one day!). Isn’t that wonderful! We are being forced to slow down and be intentional with our relationships.

Let’s take advantage of this special time and ask God to show us how we can take ownership in building this life.  I realized, the night of the women’s gathering, that what made that time so special was not that we had accomplished this meeting (women’s meeting, check!), but that I had spent time with these dear women I love so much.

That’s the heart of our communal life — these relationships that God uses to draw us closer to Him. May we be reminded of the gift of community in this time, when community looks different.