God Has Left the Building (essay)

Recently a friend asked, “How’s the ‘God business’?”

I wittily replied with a play on an Elvis catchphrase, “God has left the building.”

You see, I live inside a Quaker meetinghouse and my friend was curious about how we were responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our meetinghouse is momentarily closed, worship moved to videoconferences, but my own playful comment left me pondering the theology of my proclamation, “God has left the building.”

George Fox exhorted us to “walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.” Yes, Easter services may be canceled, but we have an invitation to roll away the stones of our own limitations and find new life awaiting us. Even in the midst of uncertainty and a global pandemic, a world of resurrection and hope is possible.

How can we walk cheerfully into a world that’s in lockdown mode? How can we actively answer that of God in everyone when we’re not supposed to be with anyone?

How can we walk cheerfully into a world that’s in lockdown mode? How can we actively answer that of God in everyone when we’re not supposed to be with anyone?

Here are a few thoughts as I try to live those questions:

BE A “NOVEL” MONASTIC.

During this time of the novel (meaning “new”) coronavirus, contemplative and monastic traditions remind us that solitude can be holy. Instead of feeling confined, turn your abode into a cloister – a place set aside for intimacy with God. From that space, carve out times for unplugged silence. Pray and share with God what’s really going on in your heart and in your life. And with those “flattening the curve” alongside you, find new ways to experience face-to-face community together.

BE A VULNERABLE PRIEST.

During this global crisis I have had moments of anxiety, or have felt afraid by my inability to protect my loved ones. But in the core of my being I know that love, not fear, is the antidote. When I am my true self, I discover a vulnerable priest who wants to speak words of peace and invite others to touch my wounds, just as I touch theirs. These days I’m regularly communicating with a small number of friends who live alone or, should they get ill, are at a higher risk of dealing with some of the contagion’s more severe symptoms. Simple things like phone or video chats or written communications can be meaningful ways of experiencing the pastoral gifts of mutuality, vulnerability, and connectedness.

BE A PROPHETIC VOICE.

For 17 years I’ve lived in solidarity and community with immigrants. I have seen the hardships, heard their cries, and known their sufferings. I’ve also witnessed a resiliency of spirit and a resistance of will. Immigrants remind me that greater than any virus, God’s Beloved Community is a cure that knows no border. Their witness compels me to be a voice for a more beautiful world. I’m utilizing social media and video-conferencing more than ever before to draw media and public attention to the plight of immigrants in detention. I’m discerning ways of creating circles of solidarity and mutual aid, like a recent campaign I started to assist a single immigrant mother and friend who is unemployed and without a social safety net. Who are some of the most vulnerable among us that stand to lose the most as our health and economic systems are taken to an unknown brink? How can you find ways to be in solidarity with them, even now?

God has left the building. Not out of fear or even self-preservation. No, God has left the building because God’s got work to do. You see, Easter is not canceled; there is a world waiting for resurrection.

Written by Anton Flores-Maisonet
This blog post initially appeared on the Forum for Theological Exploration website.
Photo of a church in Zunil, Guatemala by Anton Flores-Maisonet

Read Anton’s poem here that inspired this blog post.

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