“Taking risks” doesn’t sound like something people should do while in COVID-19 purdah[*].
We are faithfully avoiding crowds of 10 or more people and eschewing the kind of physical contact that could spread viruses for the sake of reducing risks, not running them.
But there are lots of different kinds of risks. One kind of risk involves doing something new, different, unfamiliar, vaguely mysterious.
Maybe it won’t work. Maybe we will make a mistake, do it wrong, look foolish. Maybe it would be better not to try in the first place.
Certainly, it would be less risky.
There has been a lot of taking that kind of risk in the past couple of weeks.
Some of us have been pushing past boundaries of discomfort and awkwardness, in an effort to mitigate some of the loss of community caused by the measures to staunch the pandemic.
Our pastor, for instance, has introduced us to “body prayer” and to lectio divina – no doubt wondering whether that was going to be OK with some of her parishioners.
And this morning, a few of “us,” the members of the “not that early” Sunday morning Bible study class, actually managed to meet (or “meet”) by video conference.
That won’t sound like risky behavior to everyone. It won’t sound like something that calls for much, dare we name it, courage.
But context is everything.
From where I read it, that was precisely what it called for, from a couple of class members who had to brave several layers of functionality and fast-forward several decades.
So it was gratifying when the risk paid off: we saw one another, we heard one another, we succeeded at reading the fine print on the computer screens and following the clear-to-others cryptic instructions that presuppose so much familiarity with things technological, and … we connected, related, gathered … which was what made that risk feel worth taking in the first place.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20)
Jesus never said that gathering couldn’t be virtual …
[*] Purdah is most precisely, according to the dictionary, “the seclusion of women from public observation among Muslims and some Hindus, especially in India.” More generally, by extension, it is any “state of seclusion or concealment.” The shoe fits, it seems to me; in “these times,” all of us, men and women, atheists and Christians and Muslims alike, are more or less in pandemic purdah. And as with classical purdah, the more elite, the more complete.