(Brooke’s generosity Blog)
May 31, 2020

A time of pandemic offers some perspective to other times that were high stress and high risk. It is a time where transformation is possible. Perhaps even that word most connected to the church, ‘conversion.’

There is a lovely quote from George Eliot in Daniel Deronda in the Epigraph to the book ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney (2017)

“It is one of the secrets in that change of mental poise which has been fitly named conversion, that to many among us neither heaven nor earth has any revelation till some personality touches theirs with a peculiar influence, subduing them into receptiveness.”

This may be a time listening to the Spirit. These are not normal times. We seek a return to normality and will not be possible. At least not in the way that we picture the world before this time.

We humans need some basic behaviours for mental health so we will figure out how to do them safely. Times like this in history have a tendency to accelerate change. New ways of doing things, new ways of being community, new ways of relating, are all in the air. Do you see bright flames in the sky? Perhaps multilingual voices raised in conversation? Perhaps this is a time for Pentecost, a time for the Holy Spirit.

Like most significant events in our lives, we recall the people who influenced us at key moments. The ‘guides’ to loving, being, caring, hoping and finding grace in our lives. I know that if you stop for a moment, you can recall a face, or a voice, of a special person who was with you in your times of transformation.

We are relational people. We need touch and caresses. We need to be loved. These days we need to be smarter, better, and wiser as we do this. Every pandemic in history caused disruption and isolation. In the fullness of time the hugs and gathering returned. This will happen for us too.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor, teacher and Christian leader who was arrested and was a political prisoner inFlossenbürg concentration camp in Germany between 1943 and 1945 when he was executed in the final days of the war.

Dietrich said this about celebrating Pentecost in 1944:

“I hope that you Eberhardt (best friend and close colleague) and Renate (Dietrich’s niece and partner to Eberhardt) are enjoying these warm summery days of Pentecost.”

He goes on to describe the high stresses of life in a concentration camp. There was constant bombing, and many people around him can only focus on one thing at a time. He writes:

  • “When bombers come, there is nothing but fear itself.
  • When there is something good to eat, nothing but greed itself.
  • When they fail to get what they want, they become desperate.
  • If something succeeds, that’s all they see.
  • They are missing out on the fullness of life and on the wholeness of their own existence.”

The Christian faith, frees us from tunnel vision, placing us into “many different dimensions of life at the same time; in a way to accommodate God and the whole world within us.”

He goes on to say: “Life is not pushed back into a single dimension [for people of faith] but is kept multidimensional and polyphonic.”

To me, this sounds like an affirmation of life, in the midst of a very difficult time. Pentecost is not just a proclamation of the birthday of the church (although it is that of course) but a reminder to us that life is precious, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

To be drawn more deeply into our own vulnerability and our humanity, is to embrace God’s presence in the world.

A time of pandemic, where we are closed into smaller spaces than usual, and isolating from even close friends and family members, is not at all like being in a concentration camp. It is not. But the atmosphere of fear and anxiety can be similar. It brings out both the best, and the worst in people.

May you discover your hidden depths of compassion during these times. May you drink deep in the lively fire of the Holy Spirit. May you discover that you are more kind, calm, and generous than you ever knew.

“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends.”  ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship