Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand (Or Not)

I’m trying to imagine how things will be different after scientists create a vaccine for COVID-19 and we can all go back to eating in restaurants and returning to the office.  I wonder if we will decide that working from home is viable for a large percentage of workers.  I wonder if we will stop shaking hands when we greet each other.  I wonder how spiritual practices from Passing the Peace to passing the offering plates will forever be changed in houses of faith.

Our songs will be different.

And yet touch will remain important.  I believe The Church will continue to be a community where people are touched – in healthy ways – physically, spiritually, emotionally.

One of my favorite moments in HH’s Sunday worship has been the benediction.  The benediction doesn’t get nearly enough attention in seminary, but – if you remember nothing else about the worship service – I hope to be moved by the benediction.

At HH’s church on the Sundays he preaches, he stands at the base of the chancel (i.e. the front of the sanctuary) and he asks people to face the center aisle and “if you are comfortable” touch the shoulder of someone near you.  This means that – for a moment – everyone is connected to someone.

As HH speaks the words of the benediction and walks slowly down the aisle, there are always tears in someone’s eyes.  It’s moving to see people who may or may not know each other connect.  It might be the only time some of those folks will touch another human being all week.

It is beautiful.  Except today, it’s not safe or healthy.

One day we might be able to touch each others shoulders again.  Maybe we’ll even touch someone’s hand whom we don’t know.  One of the opportunities of going through a pandemic together is that life as we’ve known it has changed for every single one of us, and soon and very soon – I pray – we will discern new ways to reach out into the world together.

Image of the great Diana Ross (November 20, 2015 in Las Vegas)

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