Nurturing Community During Quarantine


Catherine Williams led the first Love Lives On group. This photo shows her farewell party.

by Kate Lasko

It is not a group people clamor to join, yet once in you can’t imagine leaving.  Love Lives On is a group where church members who have lost loved ones meet two or three times a month for support and fellowship. The original group is five-plus years strong.  Last year, Pastor Ginny Cetuk and LaVerna reached out to those of us whose losses are newer and rawer  to form a smaller group within the established Love Lives On. Here we share stories of loved ones and in sharing, help each other process loss, cope with loneliness, and, most importantly, understand that grief does not disappear.

When Covid-19 made it clear that our meetings had to occur virtually, I wondered how distance would affect the closeness that our meetings have nurtured.  When life was “normal,” we met in the youth room, sat on comfortable couches and chairs, the only adornments a table supporting a simple wooden cross, a candle, a Bible, and always, a comforting touch at the ready. At 3 p.m. I logged on and one by one familiar faces appeared. Yes the voices were a little tinny and the vocal delays a bit challenging, but Zoom had its advantages. It brought Ginny and Chris from Florida and allowed all of us to meet LaVerna’s cat, who made a guest appearance.

Of course, the most valuable advantage of technology during this quarantine is the ability to connect with others and share joys, concerns, and coping strategies.  Duncan finds joy in cooking, LaVerna rereads a favorite collection of essays on the seven last words of Christ, Ida walks her beloved golden retriever, someone else blasts Beethoven, another journals, and everyone makes phone calls, no texts. As often happens in our meetings, the talking meandered down a variety of paths, and too soon, Pastor Ginny moved us to a closing prayer. As she spoke, I realized my concerns about closeness in distance were silly; only the setting had changed; the people were the same.  Ginny was so right: “Through Christ, miles don’t matter.”

From Pastor Ginny: ‘This is love’

Dear Friends,
Grace and Peace in the name of Jesus Christ! I just checked the Bible verse for the day on the Bible Gateway app on my phone. As usual, it seemed like a direct message from God.
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14.

This verse has me thinking about what the word “heavenward” means. The usual definition is to be directed toward heaven, or the sky. But I always look to the poets to help me understand deep words like “heavenward.” I was not disappointed when I turned to my favorite poet, Rumi.
Rumi was a 13th-century Sunni Muslim poet, mystic, Islamic scholar and theologian. He lived from 1207 to 1273 but his words are timeless. He has been described as the “best selling poet” in the United States. I understand why. He says this about the word heavenward:
This is Love: to fly heavenward.

This fall we will again gather to celebrate our being back together after summer travels to camps, far away places, and vacations in our own back yards. On September 10 we will have the kickoff to our church year by gathering for exciting worship followed by opportunities to hear about the offerings in education for all ages – some of which are new this fall – along with service opportunities and activities for all ages.

(For the September 10 Rally Day and Discipleship Fair)… many of you will be called upon to help us get ready for this exciting event. Included in the day will be expressions of hospitality for everyone, both church members young and old and visitors to the church. In addition, we will ask everyone to enter the church through the front door on Nassau Street. We’ll have coffee together in the yard, greet one another with the love of Christ, and extend our invitation to join us to passersby.

During my short time at PUMC I have felt the love of God in many ways: your gracious welcome to Trey and me; your affirmation of Skitch as part of the pastoral team; and your intentionality about living fully into your faith in Jesus Christ. Our time together on September 10 will be another opportunity for us to share the great love of God with each other and with visitors. When I think about our future together, Rumi’s words come
back to me. When we boil it all down, we are called to love with God’s love. And that, for me, is the best definition of heavenward I know.

This is Love: to fly heavenward! Are you ready to fly?
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Ginny