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In Isolation: April 13, “In Solitude”

An introduction to this “In Isolation” blog series appears at the top of the March 22 post.

What an odd day yesterday was. It was the church’s biggest day of the year when all of us would normally have been happily packed into chairs or pews. Instead, we were alone in the homes which are becoming far too familiar (and clean!). It was kind of like having a date set for a great party and no one showed up.

Now, the truth is, I found this Easter to be quite special in a positive way. There was no shortage of virtual gatherings on every kind of media from raw, unedited homemade efforts to slick and polished productions. The attempt that many of us made to help our congregations stay connected was certainly admirable — especially for those of us who are struggling to catch up to where everyone but us seems to be in terms of technical proficiency.

Me? I simply enjoyed the quiet and listened to or watched very little.

I did spend a few minutes watching clips of the Pope’s Mass. Talk about a feeling of loneliness and isolation! Seeing Francis standing almost alone in that cavernous space was cause for personal reflection. As I watched him, I experienced a great sense of metaphor in what was unfolding before my eyes.

Serving in ministry of just about any kind is lonely. There’s the very public face, the only one that many people see, the one which requires a kind of extroverted, cheerful appearance that comes more naturally for some than others. In contrast, there’s the private face which longs for quiet and solitude. I’m not so presumptuous to assume that this is how it is for everyone but, over my decades of spending time with ministers and music leaders from a couple thousand churches throughout Canada and the U.S., I’ve found there is a certain almost ‘global’ truth in that regard.

Confession: I’m seen by many as an extroverted clown. I do actually love humour.

Confession: I’m seen by many as an energetic music leader. That’s been waning somewhat in recent years with Sunday afternoons being reserved for nap time.

Confession: I’m an extreme introvert. For five years recently, Christina and I lived in a rather primitive log cabin (not to be confused with architecturally designed luxurious log homes). The photo above was taken from our living room window. While only about 40 minutes from Nanaimo where we now reside, it was a kind of wilderness life on 80 acres which bordered on crown land. Most of the time we saw no people. Every day we were treated to visits by deer, bears, elk, and even occasional wolves and cougars. At night, there was not a light to be seen except for a faint red glow from a far away communications tower. It was absolutely black outside. We heated with wood and snuggled up on the couch with a single iPad since we had no television. If I was working outside and felt the urge to pee, I didn’t have to return to the cabin. It was a life of glorious solitude and I absolutely loved it.

The Hammond Bay neighbourhood in Nanaimo is anything but wilderness and yet that feeling was here yesterday. The gas fireplace wasn’t anything like the wood stove, but watching it sent my memory into motion. There was this wondrous sense of peace despite the reality of the solitude having been forced on us and being surrounded by neighbours. So, I decided to accept the isolation as an Easter gift yesterday. I don’t think I need as much of it as we’ve been experiencing, but it was good yesterday.

My good friend, Ruth Duck, wrote “In Solitude” as a personal prayer which she never intended to be sung. She made the mistake of sharing it with me and the melody came almost instantly. An outspoken theological feminist, one of the original hymn text-adjusters and a renowned worship professor and scholar, Ruth was often seen by others as a dynamic leader/teacher. The truth is that she is at least as much of an ultra-introvert as I. Ruth understands the importance of solitude, of reflection. I sang her words to myself all day yesterday. And it was good.

In solitude, in solitude,
I meet my God in prayer.
In silence and simplicity,
my spirit blossoms there.

Whene’re the world is troubling me
and stress is all around,
I seek the presence of my God,
and healing light is found.

In seasons of perplexity,
in times of deep despair,
I light a candle in the night
and seek my God in prayer.

And when my heart is burden’d down
with cares for those I love,
Too deep for words, with groans and sighs,
descends the holy dove.

With psalms and hymns and songs of praise
before my God I’ll come
till death itself is past and gone
and I arrive at home.

In solitude, in solitude,
I meet my God in prayer.
In silence and simplicity,
my spirit blossoms there.

Words by Ruth Duck
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