Creating Sacred Space: Clerical Duties in the Time of Social Distancing

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The recent outbreak of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has a powerful impact on the flow of life around the world. From a healthcare standpoint, it is most serious for those with compromised immune systems. For collective and individual ways of life, the disruption will echo years to come. People will need to change the way they live. As with any response situation, whether it be active or passive, severe or mild, community and faith leaders have a duty to the community.

Duty comes from the Old French Deu meaning ‘owed’. Regardless of spiritual or religious beliefs, it’s my opinion that faith leaders owe the community their time and service. In that, they must actively bridge both the sacred and the mundane. Cicero, the Greek orator wrote an essay to his son about Duty. Duty is explained as a series of tradeoffs to some moral end. This essay was written at a time of transformation in the Roman empire. With COVID-19 our duty demands much more thoughtful inspection and taking of action in this situation. We have moved well-beyond and must acknowledge through our actions that this is not a “snow day” event.

“Social distancing” is now the mandate from health and government. Social distancing is a practice of having people voluntarily or mandatorily avoid congregating in public spaces. For how long is uncertain, but we are here for at least 60 days. There is a New Normal coming at many levels. For community and faith leaders, there is a series of practical and necessary changes that must take place and mundane changes abound. Yet what of the spiritual needs of the individual and community? Where is duty in that context? On one level, duty means being an oasis of calm.

  • “Be here; now” Whatever you are doing be it cleaning, speaking to someone, or shopping for groceries are you truly 100% there? Be mindful and truly present on the activity or person in front of you. Beyond efficiency, it’s respectful in a time when distancing can feel like isolation. Multi-tasking crept into our language with the rise of home PCs. Great for computers but not for quality interactions. If you set aside dedicated and focused time, making someone the center of your world, would you get a higher quality result.
  • Adopt versus adapt. Adopting is making this new situation your own. How can you build new pathways in spiritual practices while avoiding platitudes?
    • What if you were the first pilgrim carrying practices and wandering among the spiritually isolated and those seeking meaning? How would you do it in this new world?
    • How do you bring the sacred with you, create and hold space in the community?
    • What is sacred and how can an individual internalize this or bring it with them?
    • What is the need of the moment? How can the sacred be nurtured and allowed to grow? As realization sets in for the change taking place, people want to understand their relevancy in the new world.
    • What are some common elements that you can leverage, ones that everyone experiences? Faith groups such as Pagans are a community of clergy. Yet we seek the company of others. For us, the moon is a powerful symbol every month. It’s in the sky for everyone. It can serve as a reminder of how we are all connected.
  • Make space sacred. Every group has its own definition of sacred space. It may be a place made sacred by an event, circumstance or its history. However you define it, what can you do to make it sacred every day? How can you bring it closer to the individual, groups and smaller communities?
  • A bad day does not make for a bad life. Don’t try to sugarcoat it, things are difficult.  There may be loss of family and friends, income and pure isolation. People are highly flexible and can adapt to many situations.
    • What’s the support network you can create beyond online services?
    • What does a support framework look like that makes the sacred habitual?
    • Does it make sense to create an everyday practice of intents and gratitudes?
  • Reach out and touch faith.
    • Who are the most isolated? The gift of your time and presence is probably the best thing you Those who are shuttered will look for comfort.
    • What can you learn from others? Each community is finding ways to cope. What better practices can you learn across multiple disciplines.
  • Be well informed. Find reliable and authentic sources of information. Cross check and stay to date. Make someone in your organization dedicated and responsible for doing this.
  • Self-care. What are you doing to ensure you are at your top performance?

We define the world around us and how we interact with it. You have the opportunity to be the one you’ve been waiting for.


Take a moment for self-reflection. How are you feeling amidst all the talk and news around COVID-19? What are some resources or virtual activities that would help fulfill your spiritual or religious needs? What would make you feel connected to your community while you’re apart?

Take Lerner’s questions and start a conversation (perhaps online) with members of your spiritual or religious community. What are some ideas for creating a sense of community during this period of isolation?


Lawrence LernerLawrence Lerner is a pioneer in Digital Payments with a history of success in innovation, within large corporations and startups. During his career, he has worked across industries in multiple roles (executive, lead technologist, two public board Director roles) to enable digital transformation, scaling up businesses using edge technologies and processes creating $100Ms in new revenue. He works extensively with Washington businesses, legislators and regulators building community and helping to establish state policy on the next generation of technology. He is a leader and venture capitalist in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries.

Lawrence is a practicing Pagan. He began this spiritual path in the late ‘80s. He is also a priest, President of Pagan Pride (in Western Washington), and works with leading nonprofits working on pluralism, earth-first religions, gender equality and economic empowerment for all.

Lawrence is a prolific writer and frequently requested speaker across business and faith topics. He was honored to speak at the 2019 World Economic Forum.

Photo courtesy Nandhu Kumar,