Spiritually Speaking

Respondents: Rev. Jon Karn of Light on the Corner Church; Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian of Holy House Ministries; Anthony Kelson RScP, Laney Clevenger-White, RScP, and Rev. Dr. Beverly Craig of La Crescenta Center for Spiritual Living; Rabbi Janet Bieber; Carolyn Young; Sharon Weisman; Rev. Mary Morgan, Redondo Beach Center for Spiritual Living; Rev. Tim Beck and Rev. Dabney Beck, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel; Lucinda Guarino; Pastor Randy Foster, Christian Life Church; Rev. Dr. Ellen Contente, Global Truth Center; Pastor Scott Peterson, Lutheran Church of the Foothills; Rev. Karin Ellis, La Canada United Methodist Church; Rev. Debbie Sayovitz, Epicentre Church; Rev. Dr. Antonio Gallardo, St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church; Rev. Sherri James, UP Church; The Rev. C. L. “Skip” Lindeman, Upland Christian Church, Rev. Rob Holman, St. Luke’s Anglican Church; Rev. Jeff Blanton and Rev. Emanuel David, Community Life Church of La Crescenta; Rev. Sharri Johnson, One Heart Retreat Center.
Responses are offered from the perspectives of individual clergy members, which may or may not be in agreement with other respondents of Spiritually Speaking nor the editor and staff of the Crescenta Valley Weekly.

Question: Would you please remind folks about social distancing? Some stores are good about it, and many others are not. When I’m in the grocery store, if someone is in an aisle, I go down another aisle. I also walk wide circles to observe the six-feet distance; however, my experience has been that most folks forget or ignore how important it is. I’ve even had grocery store employees brush past me without paying any attention.
If we’re going to get COVID-19 under control, everyone needs to cooperate and many are not.
~ Social Distancer

Dear Social Distancer,
I was reading recently that the U.S. has only 4% of the world’s population but has the highest infection and death rate from COVID-19 than any other country in the world. There are nations with billions of people with a lower death count from COVID-19. Until we get a vaccine, we have four tools in our arsenal to defeat this disease. They are testing, tracking, social distancing and masking. As a country, we have pretty much failed at all four. The main part of the problem is that we have had no coordinated national strategy. The states were left to fend for themselves not only in securing COVID-19 medical supplies, but also in requiring and enforcing testing, tracking, distancing and masking. It became a political issue of one side believing one thing and the other believing another. The sad result is some states did little-to-nothing to follow the proven science to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and real people have died unnecessarily from a disease that knows nothing, and couldn’t care less about, our political beliefs. The sad reality is this disease can only flourish because of human ignorance or willful human ignorance.
While we live in a society that values and allows individual choice and freedom, when that society is under siege either from war or disease, the needs for the survival of society until the enemy is defeated pretty much temporarily trumps an individual’s right or desire to do as they please. We do that so society (including our founding principles of liberty and freedom) can in general survive. In short, it requires all of us acting in unity, in concert and in agreement. We must temporarily give up (or sacrifice) certain freedoms for the good and survival of society as a whole. We do this in order to ensure that those very freedoms we treasure can still be had in the future when the threat of annihilation from either war or disease is no longer there.
In so far as COVID-19 is a communicable disease (i.e., we get it from others) it requires we act together as one and rely upon one another to contain it, defend ourselves and defeat it. Our reliance on one another to do the right thing is the only way we will win this.
Distancing is important. Give people their space. Be mindful of the health of others especially if you choose to go about uncovered. Remember: “Your right not to wear a mask ends where another person’s right to life begins.” At this point in time, the only real and effective tool we have to protect each other is wearing a mask.
A properly worn cloth or paper mask, the Czech government found, can contain 95% to 100% of the virus. It rightly points out that “my mask protects you and your mask protects me.” An example of how effective masks are comes from two beauticians in a midwestern state who both contacted COVID-19 at work. Between them, they saw close to 180 customers while they were still infectious. However, the salon required both the beauticians and their customers be masked at all times, even while the client’s hair was worked on. Later, in the tracing, the state found that none of the customers came down with COVID-19 in spite of the close contact with the infected beautician for an extended period. So science works if we are smart enough to follow it. Let’s choose to do so for ourselves and for others so we can all get through this.

Anthony Kelson, RScP


Dear Social Distancer,
I share your concern with those who fail to follow recommended protocols to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. As you point out there is widespread lack of understanding of the need to cooperate to limit premature deaths until a vaccine is developed.
Retail establishments have a responsibility to provide a safe experience for customers. Medical authorities are continually updating the guidelines as new data emerges about how spreading occurs, business owners need to keep up with changes in the same way they have to update operations when any applicable law or ordinance changes.
Unfortunately, what should be routine compliance with sensible, scientifically-based advice to practice social distancing, frequent hand washing, sanitizing surfaces touched by others and, especially, wearing face coverings, has been politicized. Many ridicule those being respectful of public health and proudly defy recommendations.
Some strategies to deal with those who don’t follow the rules are using online grocery delivery services, curbside pickup, drive thru ATMs and shopping off hours. You can try speaking to the scofflaws but that might trigger an overreaction with someone hoping to provoke a public scene. If there is chronic noncompliance from employees you could contact the manager or owner privately to discuss your concerns. Ultimately you can take your dollars to where your health is respected.
In the longer term, hopefully more STEM education will result in a higher percentage of the population able to understand the benefits of scientific research and vaccines.

Sharon Weisman sharon@jetcafe.org

Question: Several of our families have taken turns hosting Thanksgiving for the past 20 years. Almost everyone has decided to have their own Thanksgiving this year, except one family. They’re insisting we get together. Up until now, there have been no disagreements ever – believe it or not. They don’t seem to understand a person can test negative for COVID-19 and positive a few days later. We are all getting daily telephone calls begging us to change our minds.
Please help us gently and lovingly convey to them that a large family gathering is not going to happen this year. We’re concerned that this may cause a long-lasting family rift.
– Family Quandary

Dear Family Quandary,
I appreciate that your family has created a lovely tradition of togetherness for Thanksgiving. When a culture of honor and familial affection is established over many years, there seems to be a feeling of loss akin to grief that occurs as situations prevent us from engaging in the customs and rituals that landmark special events, particularly holidays. In these precarious times, the decision to break those traditions may seem disrespectful to some group members, but that doesn’t mean it’s an unnecessary precaution – merely protective.
With the number of cases recorded this week alone it appears that you’re being significantly responsible for limiting access to one another. Some would say that’s a real sign of caring for the welfare of others. Not everyone relates to the gravity of the situation, which is sure to cause derision among various family members. The old adage comes to mind, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” (John Lydgate, later adapted by President Lincoln.) It seems that you might be in the “most of the people some of the time” space in this situation.
We’re told in Scripture that Joseph wasn’t exempt from family drama. Genesis 37:8 relates less than kindly feelings among the brothers: “His brothers said, ‘So! You’re going to rule us? You’re going to boss us around?’ And they hated him more than ever because of his dreams and the way he talked.” (MSG)
Even Jesus wasn’t exempt from a lack of cooperation from friends and neighbors. “Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon his brothers? Don’t his sisters still live here in our town?” The people were very unhappy because of what he was doing. Mark 6:3 (CEV)
We all have the right to stand for what we believe. How we convey our thoughts may be as important as the message itself, however. We’re taught as children to say things with kindness and good intentions. We’re told to be honorable and respectful. We’re also trained to treat one another as we’d like to be treated. In the case of the group members who feel compelled to continue the tradition, you have a duty to yourself and them to be gentle, considering the sorrow and disconnection underlying their need to be together. That being said, you also have an obligation to yourselves and the other family members to hold firm boundaries. My hope for you is that you can deliver the message in love, hope for the best possible outcome, and hold tight to your boundaries for the family’s safety and well-being in its entirety. There may be disagreement, and that’s okay, as long as you remain firmly committed to the idea that differences of opinion are part of life’s experience. Change is inevitable and, when embraced, provides us with new ways to problem-solve creatively. Perhaps you might arrange for a group Zoom time when everyone can share stories from their respective celebrations toward the end of the day. Or maybe you can time it so you Zoom dinner together from the various gatherings and locations. It’s not the same but may accommodate the desire to be together in some capacity. One day our current circumstances will change, and new arrangements can be made.
Wherever you end up in this conversation, I pray you’re centered in gratitude and genuine thankfulness for all the blessings that your collective family enjoys!
Be Well & Be Blessed!

Lucinda Guarino

Lucinda Guarino

Hello, Family Quandary,
This year has definitely made a change in all of our lives. And one of the realities we continue to struggle with is how we can safely continue to gather with those outside of our household. As the COVID-19 virus continues to affect our daily lives, we really need to listen to those who are considered “experts” and the guidance they are able to give us. One of the strongest pieces of advice that has been given since the beginning of the pandemic is that gathering in large groups creates a greater possibility of transmission if someone at the gathering has contracted the virus. Testing can only be as effective as giving us a prognosis of whether or not the virus is present at the time of testing.
Thanksgiving is a celebration of both looking back and remembering those things for which we are thankful, and also an opportunity to look into the future and how we might live forward with gratitude. I do not know anyone who would feel gratitude or thankfulness for the possibility of spreading this virus to those in our family whom we love. There is great thankfulness in hoping that, because we have taken care of one another in the present time, we will be able to gather together next year and truly celebrate and give thanks for the blessings of care and love.
We are a society that has fallen into a life of “instant gratification” and have a difficult time waiting for the blessings that still lie before us. I would recommend that you work together as a family to begin to plan an even more thankful celebration for next year. Make it bigger than ever before. Make the feast one about which ballads could be written and sung. Make the love that can be showed by waiting be an even greater blessing for this future celebration. Gather by way of communicating everyone’s wishes as to how the Thanksgiving of 2021 may be a true celebration of gratitude.
Giving thanks,

Pastor Scott Peterson