Love is not cancelled. We each have a way of saying this in a time of Covidian-19 disruption. Today Bishop Shelley Bryan Wee of the ELCA Northwest Washington Synod reflects on the memory of a song of love in the Christian tradition. Love is not cancelled.
In 2011 I was diagnosed with cancer (I am completely cured now). I remember the feelings I had when the doctor called with the diagnosis – I felt helpless, out of control, scared, numb, wanting to deny what I was being told and wanting the world to stop feeling topsy turvy. This reaction is not unlike what I am feeling right now in this time of COVID-19.
Daily, new restrictions are put in place. Daily, places that were open the day before are now closed. Daily, I feel my world becoming smaller as places for community are off limits. Daily, I realize that as much as I would like to be in control, I am not. We are not.
Throughout my cancer treatment, I sang one song over and over. I would sing it when I showered. I would sing it on my way to chemotherapy. I would sing it when I was so sick that I could not get off of the couch, and I would sing it as I watched my kids play soccer and basketball as I sat huddled on the sidelines or bleachers.
I find myself singing this same song today. This song reminds me that even though much of life feels canceled right now, God’s love is not. Even when everything feels out of control, even when the reality of death cannot be denied, even when I desperately tell my loved ones “just don’t get sick,” I cling to the words of this song – trusting that no matter what, God’s love is here.
And God’s love is made manifest through the actions of so many people. In my role as bishop I am so thankful and proud of the pastors and chaplains and deacons who are demonstrating this love: checking in with their people, planning new and collaborative ways of worshiping God together, asking deep and hard questions about what it means to be the body of Christ when the body is scattered and quarantined.
I invite you to sing this song with me – knowing that while we do not know all that life might bring, we do know this: Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, Nor trials in the present nor any trial to come, neither height nor depth nor all of creation shall ever separate us from the love of God poured out in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Listen to the song here.)
Create a chat with a group of people and discuss the following question: What is something from your religious, spiritual, or ethical path that gives you hope and strength during these tumultuous times?
What are three instances where you’ve been shown love during the COVID-19 crisis? Share these stories with at least one other person.
The Rev. Shelley Bryan Wee was born in Springfield, Oregon. Her family settled in Colville, Washington after living in a few other states. Following high school graduation, Shelley attended Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. There she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications Arts (emphasis in Public Relations) with a minor in Business Administration (emphasis in Marketing). She then earned a Master of Divinity degree from Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary (now Luther Seminary). Shelley was ordained in 1993.
Shelley has served as pastor in these ministry sites: Jocko Valley Lutheran Church in Arlee, Montana; Zion Lutheran Church in Spokane, Washington; Emmanuel Lutheran Church and Eastern Washington University Campus Ministry in Cheney, Washington. She served as Assistant to the Bishop in the Northwest Washington Synod prior to her being elected to bishop of the Northwest Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in May 2019.
She is the parent of two grown children, Katie and Daniel. Her interests include live theatre productions, walking her dogs Jackson & Gracie, planning adventures with friends, and reading books for her book club.