As you are aware by now, the building is empty day to day, save for my routine visits, so various bits of news may more or less get “trapped” inside without interaction among us all.
There are two specific items relative to Carolyn of which you may be unaware. The first is that she is retiring from her role as secretary, administrator, and general ambassador for Pakachoag Church, with her departure date very soon, early to mid-June. She is moving to South Carolina near to where her son and his family live, and will continue some of her work for Pakachoag remotely from there for a period of time. Carolyn has been a presence in the office and a presence to the church for about 23 years, so her tenure has been long and meaningful and the change will be rather seismic.
Secondly, as you may know, she has kept company for even more years, about thirty now, with Bob Bertrand and two months ago they finally “sealed the deal” and were married at Pakachoag with a small gathering of about ten family and friends present. It was the last official event held at Pakachoag before this present lockdown set in.
Carolyn mentioned to me yesterday when she was in for a few hours that she noticed the parlor was still set up as it had been for the wedding two months ago. Nothing had changed in the intervening weeks, so she and Colleen who was also here, put the room back into a more usual configuration.
I have explored many vacant buildings and been to a few ghost towns and lots of ancient ruins, and often there are signs in such that people left suddenly. That was, and remains, the situation some time ago with an area of the Ukraine that was abandoned after a nuclear accident at the Chernobyl power plant. People had to be evacuated abruptly and much was left in place and left behind. The ruins of Pompeii present in much the same way. The town was buried in the ash and debris from a volcano, and all was frozen in place and remains to this day as it was two thousand years ago.
The corona virus crisis has turned many of our places of habitation into ghost towns or ruins. This is true for schools, malls, sports venues, theaters, restaurants, and even churches. All these places were suddenly depopulated and normal activity therein ceased.
Ghost towns can be eerie places, and that I would say has been true for Pakachoag Church, and probably all churches. I walk through the building every day, and it is very strange not to encounter or even sense any sign of activity. If ever an event would prove the axiom that the church is the people and not the place, this current shut down has demonstrated that. People are the church’s business and without them, without you and us, the business is shut down.
That said, activity will establish itself again, although the context for routine may be altered. At some point we will be able to gather again at Pakachoag and I have been thinking about what that will look like, how our time together will need to be structured. This may be a situation wherein our small numbers might prove to be an advantage. I can imagine our worship time, for example, staged with small family or individual clusters set up throughout the Great Hall, with ample distance between the clusters so that we can be together even while apart.
I think the future is something we should always think about collectively, and this particular aspect of our future is something I would ask all of us to begin to put our minds to so that we can move forward when the time comes in a way that is safe and reassuring for everyone.