Coming Out of the Dark

Coming Out of the Dark

Apr 8, 2022
Susan Hynes

It has been a long time since I felt compelled to write. Like the rest of the world, I spiraled down into the pandemic years of isolation and general malaise. I saw few people other than my family, and when I ventured into public, everyone was masked. I won't say I had a crisis of faith because I have, as these posts attest, yet to find my faith. I confess I have not had the depth of commitment that could lead to a true faith challenge. There were many things about the last two years that were difficult. The deaths, the anger among people of opposing views, and the isolation have left many of us trying to make sense of it and wondering if we will ever be the same. Then suddenly, Gloria Estefan's hit Coming out of the Dark started rattling around in my brain.  

Fitting for this page, it happened on a Sunday when church and community swept me into a new place to ponder faith. To be honest, I got pretty far away from church during the pandemic. I have never been a TV churchgoer. I just can't relate to it. I certainly can listen to a sermon, but I need the traditions of being in church to make it work for me. When the churches opened back up, I started showing up. But, again, I was primarily there in the interest of candor because my husband insisted, and my son is an acolyte. I suppose I was following a time-honored family tradition. Going to church because I still have a kid at home, and I have to give him some religion. At least I wasn't doing what my parents did – drop me off at Sunday school and then pick my back up, skipping the service altogether.

So, it was one Sunday morning. I watched my son serve as a crucifer in my regular seat. The sermon was solid, all about forming good relationships. Unfortunately, my husband missed it, considering we could use a refresher after twenty years. Then we got to the peace, and I did the post-pandemic peace wave to those near me since we were still uncomfortable shaking hands. I was watching the noble folks who come out of their pews and actually cross the aisle to greet people when suddenly, I heard a loud, very demanding PEACE OF THE LORD. If memory serves, I heard it twice. Turning my head away from the people in the aisle, I was greeted by this glaring parishioner. I was, of course, a bit stunned. I immediately said, "oh, I am sorry, peace."  

This encounter stuck with me all day. It was so jarring on so many levels and, at the same time, so pertinent to the times. First, yelling not in a positive way but with anger, "peace of the lord," is entirely opposite to the intended purpose of the exchange. I have always seen this part of the service as one of affirming community. You know the bit about the church is here for you, and we will support you. Secondly, I was amused by how crazy this encounter was. I am old enough to remember when the peace was introduced to God's frozen chosen. I can recall the horror on the faces of the adults around me when the first service with the peace was introduced. People dropped prayer books and had to fetch them, so they couldn't exchange simple words. Some would just sit down and look like they were in prayer. Then, of course, the anti-new prayer book crowd simply stopped coming to church. My encounter with the hostile parishioner was the exact thing so many Episcopalians of a by-gone era dreaded. On the upside, this was the only time I ever experienced such a thing. Today, there is a healthy exchange of peace, even if there is still a bit of reticence among some. I wondered why this occurred and why it disturbed me so much.

My conclusion is that we are relearning to be a well-mannered, social group. I do not believe we are the same people. The sudden "lock-down" that overtook all of us, I think, changed us in very fundamental ways. For two years, give or take, we lived in pajamas and changed our shirts for zoom meetings where we didn't really have to get dressed up. We might have taken walks, but we had to cross the street to maintain social distance when we saw our neighbors. We slowly returned to things like church. We were masked and sequestered in well-spaced pews. The service was altered to eliminate the wine from the communion. It all seemed unreal, and our social skills got rusty. So did our sense of community become less vibrant. We had changed, no doubt about it, and on some levels, I don't think we understood how profound the change was.

The problem, it seems to me, was that we were isolated, but at the same time, we were barraged by 24-hour news channels giving us daily death counts. For many, the only communication with the world was through the internet and streaming channels pontificating on things that were not exactly comforting. Over the period, I felt anger grow, and faith took a battering. For many, we began living lives of quiet desperation and loneliness. When we returned to the outside world, we no longer knew how to be. The parishioner yelling at me, THE PEACE OF THE LORD, told me of their hurt because of a perceived slight. My poor manners might not have drawn much attention three years ago, but now it mattered. Perhaps for so long, we craved community. When we finally could have it again, we lashed out at anyone who overlooked us. I was thoughtless, but the reaction was also askew. The whole event troubled me and was with me when I found the good news that while we may be a little out of practice, the church is a great place to get back what we have lost.

Shortly after the service, parents with teenage children met in the rectory to discuss the youth program. The room was full of energetic people eager to help and be helped by a community that believed in the importance of faith in raising young people. Many ideas were exchanged about how the church could help us raise good people. Young people who could learn the importance of giving back, kindness, and empathy. It was exciting and fun and very reassuring. People were sharing and focused on something positive. And that's when Coming out of the Dark started playing in my head.

This particular Sunday, I saw what had happened to so many of us and how we will survive and thrive. It was as if that strange hostile moment was the end of something, and the lunch at the rectory was how it will be from now on.  

Why be afraid if I'm not alone?​
Though life is never easy​
The rest in unknown​
And up to now for me it's been​
Hands against stone​
Spent each and every moment​
Searching for what to believe

Coming out of the dark​
I finally see the light now​
And it's shining on me…

          -Gloria and Emilio Estafan


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