When Montana went into "hunker down" mode for a few weeks, I stayed home too. Even though I could have continued to cross the street to the church and worked there alone, it seemed important to set a good example. Since I also believe that the church is the people, not only the building, I set up a little place in my house. On March 26, I brought the eternal candle into the parsonage where I live.
I lit at the start of each work day. Making phone calls, praying, working on videos, reading the Bible, leading Bible study, the candle burned. I would go up at night and blow it out, just because I didn't want to keep a candle burning all night- no matter how stable and safe. (I also have to set a good example for my kids.)
Somehow these candles in red globes have become, in my mind, a symbol of what it means to be a pastor of a congregation. I am not the Savior. I am not God. I do not control. I lead, I pray, I mess up, I repent, I try, I forget, I remember, I grieve, I rejoice, I long, I stretch, I ponder, I proclaim. And over and over, I make sure that the symbols of light remain visible- so that we can all trust in the true Light of the World, which cannot be overcome.
This morning, across an empty 4th Avenue, with only bird song for accompaniment, I carried the eternal candle back to the sanctuary.
In the vow portion of the Service for Ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament (being a pastor), the final comment of the bishop is this, after the pastor has asked for God's help and guidance in fulfilling many promises:
And then the congregation responds, "Amen."
Almighty God, who has given you the will to do these things,
graciously give you the strength and compassion to perform them.
Being a pastor creates a restlessness in me for service and creating community. This restlessness is the Holy Spirit stirring at my will. In the details, though, I am met by Christ who provides the strength and compassion.
No one carries a candle home and tends it for glory. They do it for love. And it is the same love that keeps on hoping for the day when we can all safely worship together in person, again.