March 17, 2020 - 4:52 PM

How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land

By The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III

Dear friends and colleagues,

“How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4)

When I was a counselor at a summer camp, I took my cabin of boys camping for an overnight trip down the river. We found a lovely small sand island and set up camp. We built a fire, cooked a good meal, sang songs and played games. Night came and we all crawled into our sleeping bags around the cozy fire and full of fellowship and fun, went to sleep. We were awakened later that night, the fire put out by a rising tide, our sleeping bags soaked, all our boats and supplies floated off down the river in complete and utter darkness, unable even to see one another. We held hands in a circle and sang songs. The community we formed in the night gave us courage until the sun came up and help arrived.

What a strange land we have come to in this day. The darkness of anxiety and fear have created a night season for all in the city, our nation and the world. There is no holding hands, nor can we gather to sing. It is the darkness that comes with isolation and its companion fear. A strange land with familiar landmarks suspended and the strength of community diminished. We must find a way to be together while being told to stay apart. A strange and upsetting land indeed.

We are not the first, nor will we be the last to have this sad experience. And like our forebears, we will persevere until this night passes. And it will.

In the meantime, we can build structures and experiences that will tide us over until the world rights itself and our normal lives can resume. And we will.

Through prayer, steadfast faith, and exerting the energy to maintain as best we can a sense of normalcy, we will persevere through trust in the promise that God never abandons us or the world divine goodness created. Such trust produces hope.

In these days, we all and each of us must do what we can to continue to be in relationship and community else we fall prey to the night of fear and self-pity.

Your Cathedral staff has worked mightily to prepare resources and experiences to remind us – and more than that to strengthen and steel us – of the steady presence of God and God’s unshakable loving presence.

As you might know, the Cathedral has been closed to public worship – including Holy Week and Easter -– for the duration of the crisis, and all weddings, funerals, concerts and special events have been canceled. Into that void, the clergy of the Cathedral have stepped to provide daily services of Morning Prayer broadcast from the Nave of the Cathedral. We are working to begin these services as soon as possible and will continue this through Easter, and perhaps beyond if needed. You will simply go to the Cathedral web page join those gathered in the community of prayer electronically. Another update will be made when the schedule has been finalized.

We are committed to caring for our employees and will continue to pay their salaries in a regular way as well as providing emergency assistance as needed. Maintenance has increased cleaning efforts in order to keep the Cathedral spaces and soup kitchen areas safe for essential staff still working and clients in need of food. Our Security team will continue to monitor all activity on the Close. Cathedral Community Cares (CCC) will continue its feeding program with bagged meals. Advancing the Community of Tomorrow (ACT) is closed but staff will continue to reach out to parents weekly with curriculum and activity ideas for children and families.

I have approached the President of Mt. Sinai Hospital to offer the Cathedral as additional treatment space should the numbers of those who are ill surpass the hospital’s capacity.

The Cathedral staff will reconvene on April 15 to consider and adjust these plans as needed.

The Cathedral switchboard remains open. The Dean and Clergy are in place and open to speaking with you as needed.

Part of the Good News we proclaim is our response to the Psalmist’s question, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” We can continue to be confident in God’s presence and promises and assured of the good future God prepares for us and for all the people on this planet.

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