Time is a funny thing. In our heads we know what a second is, or an hour, or a day. But, in our hearts, we can experience years as if they fly by or moments that linger forever. Jane Caruso, a Bethesda parishioner most of us remember well, passed on a ministry to me that I am sometimes really good at and sometimes fail miserably to do, and that is sending birthday cards to all of our young people here at Bethesda. And the challenge is always time. I just normally don’t have the time to hand write prayers to everyone on our birthday list each month. At least that’s what I would tell myself when I would look up from a time-consuming project only to see that another month had ticked off of the calendar.
I think about that now because our current crisis has made me reevaluate how I think about time. A month ago, I would have said that hours are there to be filled with something to do. Education directors, I believe, are inherently “do-ers”. When we see a challenge, we devise a solution and execute a plan. This is necessary because we need to have functional, engaging classes and experiences for children from ages 0-18 every single week, multiple days per week. Time is precious and it can’t be wasted. This past week, however, I’ve seen so many of those hours spent “doing” come unraveled. The preparations for big events like the Spring Carnival and the Sunday School end-of-year cupcake party, all for naught. Personal trips that I had planned for years that were supposed to come to fruition this summer – gone. And, with word coming from the bishop’s office this week that we will likely maintain our social distancing through May 15, facing the postponement of our Confirmation Sunday, one of the things I hold most dear in my ministry.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the course of the last week. Jane Caruso gave me a gift with these birthday cards, and I was so busy “doing” things that I didn’t stop long enough to appreciate it. Because for every birthday card that I sent to our young people, I began each prayer with the words found on page 830 of the Book of Common Prayer, “O God, our times are in your hand…” and I never thought about the depth of that phrase. I just always heard those words in my head as a timeframe for our lives. But now, reflecting on the lost planning time, the shattering of normal routines, the complete upset to our lives that this pandemic has had, I see a holy and hopeful message for all of us. This time, this day, this hour, this moment—God holds all of it. We think that we have mastery over time by filling it with things to do or places to be. But actually, we don’t control any of it. Like Ecclesiastes reminds us, “[God] has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
So, where does that leave us? We’re going to have to postpone some things like confirmation, which will be available to this year’s class at next year’s bishop visitation. We’ll have to make some tough decisions soon about summer programming like the youth mission trip and Vacation Bible School. But mostly, we’ll wait and watch and pray. And in this time, the time that God has graced us with, that may be the most important thing we can do.
Director of Children and Youth Ministries