Fear, isolation, hope and Holy Week

Hinsdale's pastors point to sources of Easter light in the present darkness

In the midst of the collective fight to stave off the scourge of COVID-19, Easter is arriving. For believers this is an occasion to exult in victory over death, in the hope of a greater existence beyond the suffering of this world. The Hinsdalean reached out to leaders of the village's faith communities to learn what celebrating this season against a backdrop of deep anxiety - and separation from one another - has stirred in them. Here's what they had to say (some have been excerpted for length).

"No lilies, no tulips, no Easter brunch or egg hunt for Easter. Unthinkable, right? Yet, more than lilies, my heart goes out to all who are in powerless, fearful and lonely places. My heart goes out to those that are grieving or struggling to make sure that their loved ones are safe. My heart goes out to those on the front lines of this battle - doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. My heart goes out to all who are confused and struggling, wondering where God is in all this.

"I pray that we will not only get through this together, but also come out of this stronger and much more faithful, with a renewed sense of community and compassion. Yes indeed, we are an Easter people, and this is our Easter faith - life prevails, love triumphs."

- Rev. Young-Mee Park, Hinsdale United Methodist Church

"When can you remember a time when we could say, "We are all in this together, all of humanity"? Our human journey has always been about expanding into an increasing complexity, which invites us into a unification of consciousness, despite our attempts to prove otherwise. Fear is an unwelcome guest that spreads like a thick fog and obscures our ability to see. Fear despises being named because it cannot thrive with a name. The only thing to hold onto is nothing at all, that is the way of the universe, nature and creative force that gives energy to all of it. Allow this particular time of physical space to speak a hope beyond all words and give you peace."

- Rev. Chris Pierce, Grace Episcopal Church

"As we approach the Easter holy day, we find ourselves feeling much like Jesus' disciples must have felt; disconnected, confused, in unfamiliar and unsettling circumstances. No one knows what might be coming next, but we can still rest in our faith. We can know ourselves to be intricately connected to something much larger than our own small selves, knit together with people all over the world.

"In this time, it is our faith in a universal love which connects and binds us, that urges us forward to offer our blessings to a needful world. Jesus left an example of unconditional love for each and everyone of God's children. He showed us that love means to love everyone and that our neighbor can be people much different than ourselves. Even in the midst of the darkness of the tomb, there is hope that love will rise and overcome our separation, and that each of us may live fully into the promise of a new day."

- Rev. Pamela Rumancik, Unitarian Church of Hinsdale

"I am staying curious as to how God is speaking to us in the midst of this awful time. As we experience our conveniences and security stripped away from us, it reveals what is left - our faith, our families, our hope. I don't know why God allows this virus to continue its rampage, but I know that God is present with us in the midst of this time, and I am sure that he is speaking loudly if we will stop and listen."

- Rev. Lars Stromberg, Hinsdale Covenant Church

"Let's guard against living from a fear or scarcity posture, but let's trust God is still in charge and isn't invalidating His promise to be with us no matter what. Instead, let's be people who live with open hands and hearts with our time and resources to help any and all we can. We keep trumpeting that this time of forced unplugging can be an opportunity to reset a few things in our daily and weekly rhythms.

"The hope is that these practices and rhythms will carry over when we emerge from shelter in place: taking time each day to be quiet and recalibrate in prayer and taking a breath and simplifying our lives by decluttering not just our closets and garages but also our schedules and lives. I'm also concerned about the grief percolating beneath the surface for all that has been and will be lost. I sense we have to give people permission and tools to process their yet unidentified grief."

- Rev. Rick Callahan, The Chapel

"God can bring good from the worst of events and circumstances. I think that's the point of Good Friday and Easter, isn't it? Just as suffering, hardship, doubt, isolation and fear ("My God, My God, why have you abandoned me") was turned into victory, triumph and new life for Jesus, so, too, the same is waiting for us. Relationships are renewed, strengthened, recognized, appreciated, nurtured and deepened. Hopefully we will emerge from this physically healthier and safer.

"But, by the grace of God, we can also emerge from this common experience spiritually, socially and emotionally healthier as well. Let's pray for medical personnel, government leaders, first responders and all those entrusted with the care of our common good and do what we can to cooperate with their efforts. God is watching us, and expects great things of us, especially now that things are tough. If we pray and are attentive to Him, He will see us clear and bring His purpose, His good from the evil that surrounds us."

- Father William De Salvo, St. Isaac Jogues Church

"I'm actually grateful that Holy Week is happening right in the middle of our time of separation. We need to be recentered! Our God has entered into our suffering, has dealt with our guilt on the cross and has defeated death. This is the only truth that can ground us in moments like these."

- Geoff Ziegler, Trinity Presbyterian Church

"I am struck that this is such a new experience for so many of us - and yet it is not without precedence for Christians. 'We' have had to keep the faith through days when it was dangerous to gather in person; the church has carried on through times of plague and pandemic. That's not to say that this isn't terribly difficult, but rather that we're not without resources. We have stories of God's presence in times of struggle and pain; this week we tell the story for Christians of the seeming victory of fear and death and their defeat by God's life and love.

"This is so hard, and so new, but we are not alone. We are trying to be present to and for one another, and we are trying to remember God's promise that nothing can separate us from God's love and life."

- Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan, Union Church of Hinsdale

"This Easter week experts predict a surge in COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in our country. Perhaps this brings us closer to the experience of that first Easter morning. Jesus' followers, expecting to visit their Lord's tomb, instead discovered that he was alive! The resurrected Jesus who met them then is still at work in the world today.

"Consequently, we can dare to love and serve our neighbor - staying home to quell infection, reaching out to the lonely, financially supporting agencies and churches that care for the needy, praying for first responders and advocating for essential workers. Jesus is still bringing life and hope to places of death and despair and, by God's grace, we can do this important work, too. Thanks be to God!"

- Rev. Katie Hines-Shah, Redeemer Lutheran Church