Dear friends in Christ,

I am looking forward to the annual meeting of our diocesan convention this Saturday even though we will not actually be in person. The “head table” folk will be together and broadcasting from the Oregon Episcopal School, while we depend on the convention to take place with everyone joining on Zoom. This adjustment can be added to the growing mound of events that have been adapted for the pandemic. At this point, it is probably safe to say that we are adapting without even flinching. Whereas once it was with much consternation that we made changes from an in-person event to a virtual event, now we ask even before we give an RSVP, “Are we meeting in person or virtually?”

My how times have changed. And they are changing us. It occurs to me that the question, “How is the pandemic changing us?” is a central one for the church. We have been working hard to find ways to hang onto the “us” of our faith communities. And the questions we’ve been asking have been seeking ways that we might galvanize a sense of community solidarity. How can we receive Communion and feel we are still community? How can we enjoy our music together and still feel we are community? The central questions really have been about sustaining our identity as members of the Body of Christ.

The alternate Old Testament reading for this Sunday is from Ruth. As I reflected on the verses, I noted the devotion between Naomi and Ruth – the commitment of Naomi to make sure that her widow daughter-in-law would be secure. But even more, I reflected on the women of the neighborhood who exclaimed over the birth of Ruth’s son.  Their gratitude and joy coalesced into naming him. I am struck by the power of community – the women who loved and supported Ruth, and who sought to lift up her newborn son as theirs too. It is easy to imagine the rich life little Obed would enjoy with this loving and joyous beginning.

This image of the generative and generous community brings to mind our diocesan convention as a loving and joyous community. Our identity as the Body of Christ made known in the convention of the Episcopal Church in Western Oregon is an occasion to embrace with hope and love. Despite the virtual venue, we will gather and enjoy being community – although scattered – still, we are One in Christ. Let’s reflect the joy of Ruth’s girlfriends and name ourselves “Beloved as One in Christ.”