Wednesday, March 17 2021
In 2016, Harvard epidemiologist Tyler VanderWeele and USA Today editor John Siniff, asked in an op-ed in USA Today, “If one could conceive of a single elixir to improve the physical and mental health of millions of Americans – at no personal cost – what value would society place on it?” The title of the essay was “Religion May Be A Miracle Drug.” Based on new research and 20 years of experience, they conclude that there is a significant connection between attendance at religious services and better health – both physically and mentally. They write, “Something about the communal religious experience and participation matters. Something powerful appears to take place there, and enhances health. It is something quite different from solitary spirituality. Where else today do we find a community with a shared moral and spiritual vision, a sense of accountability, wherein the central task of members is to love and care for one another? The combination of the teachings, the relationships and the spiritual practices — over time, week after week, taken together — gradually alters behavior, creates meaning, alleviates loneliness, and shapes a person in ways too numerous to document.” (Source)
I see a strong connection between these words and Jesus’ above. In what we call the Great Commandment, Jesus connects every aspect of our lives to our relationship with God. Our emotions, our desires, our thoughts, our energies, our bodies, and our relationships. Spiritual health, emotional health, and physical health travel together. Certainly, there are exceptions, but at least in my case the more I love God, the better I love others, and the better I take care of myself. And this starts with the recognition that God has loved us in Jesus with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength.
I also notice the importance of relationships – how we live with other people. Community plays a very significant role in our spiritual growth. During the pandemic, community has suffered. It has been a year of being apart. This coming Sunday marks the anniversary of when we began dealing with shut-downs, quarantines, and restrictions. But the Coronavirus is not the only pandemic we have experienced. Many refer to rising rates of anxiety and depression as the “pandemic within the pandemic.” Isolation and alienation from others have contributed to this. It is not good to be alone.
With that in mind, let me encourage you to consider a return to 309 Fernwood Dr. to gather with other covenant partners for worship – at either 8, 9:30 or 11. Worship and fellowship with others are both biblically encouraged and experientially proven to be indispensable in our spiritual growth and emotional health. Besides, I just miss seeing you! We do continue to invite our more vulnerable and unvaccinated covenant partners to worship via livestream.
On March 21, we enter the newest phase of our re-opening. Tape blocking alternating pews will be removed allowing us to spread out throughout the sanctuary. Please try to maintain appropriate distance where possible. We do ask that you continue to wear masks when you enter, exit, stand or sing. Masks may be removed when seated. Please be mindful and considerate of those around you. If you are concerned about larger crowds, our 8 and 11 services have ample space. I look forward to seeing you in worship.