July Pastoral Message: From Before/After to Among

A Pastoral Message from the DRUUMM Chaplain Team. Members seeking to connect with a chaplain, please use our online request for pastoral support form.

For a long time, it felt like I was living in a binary of before/after. In addition to being a DRUUMM chaplain, I work as a hospital chaplain in a major medical center, and 2020 was one of the hardest years I’ve ever experienced. There were so many “befores” and so many “afters,” some hoped for, imagined, or experienced. I frequently referred to “Before the pandemic…” and “after the pandemic is over…..” 

Before the pandemic… I loved to go to karaoke; before the pandemic we held all our meetings in-person; before the pandemic this part of the hospital was for cardiac monitoring and now it’s for COVID-19 patients. After…after I received the vaccine I could walk the hospital with less fear; after the winter I took my first vacation in a year; after the re-opening I ate at a restaurant indoors. There are other before/ after moments that our society references often: before and after the November 2020 election, before and after George Floyd’s death. 

But I’ve come to realize that there is no clear before and after. Placing a before and after around an event implies that it is a singular event, something with a clear ending and beginning. We are currently experiencing a confusing and anxious period of rising COVID numbers for some in the US and huge numbers around the world, re-openings (including our congregations), and worries about variants, vaccinations for children, and more. There is no before/after for our country’s reckoning with racial injustice, especially for People of Color. Even for those of us who are experiencing some relative privilege and feel new-found relief, freedom or safety, we are still carrying and processing all of our experiences of last year. 

So I suggest moving from a linear trajectory of before/after to a philosophy of “among.” COVID is still among us. Grief and loss are among us. Injustice is among us. We are among fear and doubt, hope and uncertainty, burnout and joy. The philosophy of “among” speaks to feeling surrounded by, in the middle of, between and betwixt. When we are among, there is no immediate positive release of a perfect “after.” Instead we might ask, how do we carry hope amongst despair? How do integrate our losses and scars into new rhythms and forms, even as we experience new tragedies and suffering? How do we keep going—keep resting, resisting, remembering? How do we keep growing and building community amongst division and isolation? 

What is your “before/after” and your “among?” My prayer for our DRUUMM is that we know ourselves to be amongst a Beloved Community in a time of storm and transformation, continuing to nurture ourselves and one another with love and kindness. 

Rev. Christina Shu, DRUUMM Chaplain Team

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