What are we afraid of? And how is God present even in the midst of fear?
By: Rebecca Garrett Pace, Minister of Worship & The Arts

This is a picture of the altar display that I finished yesterday. It’s got bright primary colored fabric (you’re welcome, elementary school teachers), cool lanterns, rainbow streamers, candles (because I can’t ever do an altar display without candles), and, the highlight: artwork from you, our congregation.
Raise your hand if March 2020 feels like a decade ago. No? Just me? Ok then. Well, these canvas squares were part of our Lenten series called “Frayed: A Lenten Series on Facing Fear with Love” that we started just before the shutdowns happened last year. We asked you to draw or write on this prompt: 
What are you afraid of? And where do you experience God even in the midst of the fear? 
You responded with incredible vulnerability and beauty, drawing and writing your prayers for Syria, for wildfires, for COVID-19 (at that time still an epidemic, not a pandemic, if you can believe it), for friends dealing with cancer, for climate change. Then Danielle, an amazing artist in our community, sewed these canvas squares together to make a patchwork quilt of sorts, literally sewing the frayed edges together into a beautiful, unified whole. 
Metaphor, anyone?
In just a couple of days, we’ll celebrate Back to School Sunday at White Rock UMC. We’ll bless learners and teachers of every age and stage, hand out bibles and cute backpack tags (also good for briefcases, guitar cases, etc.!), and be invited to think about the story in Luke of the Road to Emmaus. We’ll pray together, sing together, listen to the choir and folk band’s music, and witness Jesus’s journey with two disciples on the long road home from Jerusalem. This Sunday comes around every year, and it’s sort of an unofficial kick-off to all of our fall “stuff” at church.

So why, you might ask, did I decide to create an altar display from 17 months ago? Isn’t the whole point that we’re starting fresh? “New Semester, New Me,” and all that jazz?

Because we still fear things. Because we still need to be invited to see God in the midst of that fear. Because school is starting, and teachers, administrators, county leaders, legislators, and staff are all trying to figure out how to reinvent the reinventions they already reinvented last year, to keep people safe and to make learning possible.

Because in the last year and a half, we have upended our routines, gotten COVID, lost jobs and pets and loved ones, gone through separations and divorces, relapsed in our addictions, and argued about vaccine efficacy in the comment section even though we swore we would not do that again.

Because maybe seeing the frayed pieces of our prayers and fears sewn together and draped on the altar will symbolize a little bit of healing.

This Sunday, take a moment to look more closely than usual at the altar display. Maybe you’ll recognize your square up there. Maybe you’ll remember something you’d forgotten. Maybe Jesus will show up with you, like he did with the two disciples walking down the road to Emmaus, and begin to help us sew the pieces back together.

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