Our local florist called last week, and when I checked back with them, they were asking about our Easter lily order. Each year, we order Easter lilies -- about 30 of them -- to decorate the altar for our Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday services. The trumpeted flowers shine brightly and fill the air with their sweet fragrance. We invite our members to dedicate lilies in memory of or thanksgiving for someone special in their lives, and as the blooms fade, usually a couple of weeks later in the Easter season, they can take the lilies home to plant in their own gardens and look forward to them rising again next spring.
The florist was checking with me because while their greenhouse nurtures about 3,000 lilies, churches were calling in and canceling their Easter lily orders.
I know why churches are canceling their orders. Like All Saints, faith communities worldwide are urged or commanded not to gather for weeks to come. Easter morning is April 12, about three weeks away. We won't be gathering in our regular places of worship, shoulder to shoulder, for what is typically one of the most highly attended services of the year. To be clear, not gathering is an act of love and respect. With the information about contagion for covid-19, we know the risks of infection are high, along with risks of severity especially for the elderly. The responsible thing to do is to social distance and stay home, not because we don't have faith but because we have a faith that commands us to love our neighbors and appreciates the wisdom science gives us.
I know that when I invited people into the observance of a holy Lent three weeks ago, I didn't know we would be going into the wilderness of a pandemic. I did know, however, that we entered the season of Lent with knowledge that Easter morn will come. We would make sacrifices, remember our dependence upon God, and reorient our lives toward the light that would rise again from the darkness. This is the story of Christians for thousands of years, through war and famine, plague and persecution.
With assurance that Easter is coming, I confirmed our Easter lily order. The Church is not confined by buildings, and while the faithful may not be gathered in one space for Easter services, God willing, I will be streaming our liturgy from the church, probably with a family member behind the recording device. We will watch the light grow at Easter Vigil. We will see the glory of Easter morning. It may not be the grandest service ever, viewed from a screen, but it will give us opportunity to see our collective work in offering remembrance and thanks for those who have shown us that life and love are what matter most.
And there will be lilies around the altar.
The Rev. Sara Milford serves as Vicar of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Bentonville. You can reach her (and make Easter lily dedications!) at firstname.lastname@example.org and attend Morning Prayer through the church's Facebook Live videos @allsaintsbville.
NAN Religion on 03/21/2020
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