Into the Breach

A friend of mine, who composes devotions which are experienced by a following on the Internet, mentioned the expression, and idea of, “finding the threshold”, in today’s devotion, and my mind was off to wander all over the place.

I wondered, at several points, how many in our world, right now, around here, are feeling like they’re dwelling at the threshold of something–whether the world beyond their own self-isolation or something imposed upon them like the loss of employment, companionship or once-familiar places. At such thresholds, people may find themselves on one side or the other. The world is shutting down but my pension continues where a friend’s income does not. We stand on opposite sides of that threshold.

In my own small orbit, I think of people who won’t have recourse to a safe injection site in the coming days. Their vulnerability will be magnified many times over. Oh, God!

I think of the people who gather at Timmy’s for the ritual conversation rather than the coffee. Their dining room is now closed. In that regard, I think of my friend who maintains an office at the local Timmy’s, there, at the first table to the right as you come through the door. The doctor can no longer be in, not for 5 cents, not for any amount.

And I think of the many who know the church –or the mosque or temple or some other locus— to be a destination and who experience their place of sanctuary closed for business.

I had been visiting a friend of over 40 years–a generation older than I–reasonably regularly. I cancelled a scheduled rendezvous this afternoon so that he and his wife might chat about whether we could break our respective self-isolations so that I could come over, sit at the other end of the room wearing a home-made HASMAT suit, so that we could chat or watch a favourite, ancient black and white movie together. Of that threshold, I await word.

This time we’re living in, and this world we’re living in, are familiar territory to deacons who live at the edge-places and proclaim from the edge-places and urge from the edge-places. Our time is a diaconal time.

But I’m not a deacon. And most of my colleague-friends are pastors or priests. This threshold territory is unfamiliar to many of us. The work of word and sacrament, as we have know it, is interrupted and being replaced, here and there, with fairly pale imitations and approximations. How do you do communion in a Coronavirus world, where being present is a requisite? How do you do pastoral care in a way that does not itself isolate or mobilize anxiety? How do you breach the thresholds of presence? Do you? When? Why?

I have no simple answers but I do think that we’re living in an extraordinary time of real, high individual and corporate anxiety; a time which calls for hard decisions and deftness at the thresholds of life; and a time which demands a significant measure of ingenuity in each particular moment.

For all who herald, greet, suggest the way or assist at the thresholds, I am grateful.

André +

André Lavergne writing from a settler-descendant’s home on the traditional lands of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples on the Haldimand Tract (1784). 

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