How Has the Pandemic Affected Your Faith?
The pandemic changed my prayer practice.
Seems like a no brainer. A time of high alert, anxiety, disease, uncertain protocols. Of course, it would affect your faith. The overriding fear.
For me, all at once I wasn’t taking the subway to work every morning. You’d think that’d be a blessing of sorts. A little more time at home. More time to indulge in some devotional practice (even when Zoomed out from all those virtual meetings).
But the subway has been a prayer place for me for decades. I even documented it in a book with the made-in-New-York title: Finding God on the A Train. I live in upper Manhattan. My office is downtown. What to do with all that “down time?” Pray. Often as not, I would get a seat – keeping half an eye out for someone who might need it more than me. That elderly man, that pregnant woman, that fellow with the cane.
Seems like a crazy place to pray. But what I found is that when you choose a place and dedicate it, it serves you well. The roar of the engine, the rhythm of the wheels on the track, the opening and closing of doors, they became my call to worship. To check in and check out.
Then the mid-March shut-down hit. I told myself, “Make the Desert Fathers and Mothers your models now.” I even downloaded Athanasius’s Life of St. Anthony onto my Kindle. No worship on Sunday (except on Zoom). No taking the subway then either. I would have to make the sofa at home my new regular praying place.
I’d already been using it like that. But it wasn’t quite the same as the subway. It didn’t give me that feeling of being present and absent at once. In meditation they talk about giving the thinking mind a break. Somehow the subway ride did that for me. I half-considered getting on the A train some morning just to go to nowhere. My somewhere.
I ended up extending my morning sofa sessions. The rumble of the radiator, the sounds of passing cars, my wife in the kitchen making her coffee—couldn’t they be my call to worship, too? And in those Sunday Zoom worship sessions—hardly the same as taking the sacrament in person – maybe I could sit differently. Perhaps even lie prostrate on the floor (the line from an old hymn resonating with me, “let angels prostrate lie”). Guess what? It worked.
When I hear people use the phrase, “when life gets back to normal,” I want to shout out, “No, no. We should be in a new normal.” Hasn’t all this forced-in solitude and isolation taught us anything? Hasn’t dealing with the uncertainty helped us grow? Haven’t we had to make changes in our lives that teach us something? Like praying in a new place and new way.