Zeitgeist and the Church: The Lessons Learned from the “Blow-Off” Class I Took in College

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I took one class in college that one may classify as a “blow-off” class: Television and Society.

Now, my intentions for taking it were not because it appeared easy. Along with my two concentrations of public relations and professional writing under my degree in English, I was hoping that the stars would align, the classes would be available, and I could fulfill the requirements for a minor in Communications. (I was one class shy.) This class was an elective for the minor. (Admittedly, taking a class such as this helped out when I had to leave school for a week when my grandmother was dying. But that’s another story for another time.)

In any case, this class featured television from various eras and styles, taking account the time period in which the show was featured. As we looked back on the 1950’s, television was drastically different than in the 1990’s.

And today, over 25 years after taking the class, television is drastically different.

No longer do we need to catch a television show when it airs or set our VCRs to catch the show. Now, everything is On Demand. If my DVR doesn’t record a program, it will be on Hulu the next day. Furthermore, this gives the viewer the opportunity to binge watch television shows – from just one episode to a whole season in one night.

Needing to stay inside this year has given people the opportunity to watch shows at their own convenience, enjoying an evening’s worth of programming based upon the time and audience. I’ve had the chance to watch shows that had just fully completed their run (Schitt’s Creek) and new seasons of other programs (The Crown and others).

Not only has our style of watching shows changed, but the content itself. Just recently, I read an NPR article on why Grey’s Anatomy decided to include the Covid-19 pandemic into the show.

One of the medical consultants, Dr. Nasar Alazari said this:

“We were kind of, like, returning into this fog. It was thick fog. We did not know what’s happening. I felt like definitely we have to say that, like, you know – tell stories about this because this disease is our zeitgeist.”

“The disease is our zeitgeist” is a very important point every industry and corner of our society needs to embrace. We will never be the same because of this time. Television needs to reflect it.

And so does the church.

Television and Society class taught me that as times change, the content of television and our viewing habits change. This year has taught me that as times change, the content of church and our participation habits change. I would say that this is another “Video Killed the Radio Star” moment; nothing stays the same, and we are called to adapt.

Covid-19 is our zeitgeist, which the Oxford Languages defines zeitgeist as “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.” Just as WWII was the major backdrop of the early 1940’s, this virus is the backdrop for 2020. The tension of the Babylonian Exile was a major zeitgeist of the writings in the Hebrew Bible. We can’t escape this backdrop.

Of course, this means content of services, including sermons, reflect this tension in a way that is real but hopeful. It’s a part of our landscape. A medical show can’t escape storylines on the virus because it’s a major part of medicine now. Likewise, we can’t disregard this because it’s part of who we are now.

Furthermore, the structure of faith communities have changed forever. Do people need to watch church at 9:30am on Sunday mornings? No. Church is becoming On Demand. We can watch it whenever it is convenient. I now think this will be a permanent part of church life. What we must do is pair that with the commitment to stay connected with our congregants. To our faith community, the work of connecting to people has transformed, and I think this level of working to connect has changed the way we do church. This has brought us closer together at a time when we feel physically distant.

Like with television, this time has permanently changed all of us – and every corner of society. The Church is permanently changed. And that one sort of “blow off” class I took in 1994 helped me see that whatever the zeitgeist, we will keep surviving and keep adapting.

A Lament in Times of Covid Anger

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God who abides with us in times of lament…

Oh how could we be here! How can our neighbors care so little about us, focusing on freedom instead of compassion?

Despair and resentment grow within my heart. At some point I’ll reflect on forgiveness, but right now I rage.

It was more important for some to hold big parties which created more cases instead of imagining how their actions would ripple into the world.

It was more important for some people to make a point of not wearing masks for the sake of their “freedom” instead of embracing the beauty of connection and sacrifice for the greater good.

It was more important for people to defy recommendations based on ideology instead of seeking science and reason.

And so our medical professionals worry each day if they are next. Because some wanted to out to dinner, our schools must close. Because of ego, gatherings commence when they should be placed on hold.

Dear God, I’m angry. I’m furious because our loved ones can’t gather with us for holidays. Some are sick. Others are dying. I’m angry at our fierce independence because it creates barriers to achieve a healthy society.

I’m angry because they don’t care about my health.

So with my neighbors, we scream in anger at where we are today, knowing that some turn their backs on justice and mercy, on interconnectedness and love.

I’m not ready to forgive. I’m not ready to forget.

Amen.

A Prayer for Veterans Day

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Sustaining God-

As we stop to ponder the past, we recall the ones who placed their lives on pause to risk, to strengthen and nurture the spirit of our country.

With gratitude today, we remember our veterans. For many, the wars aren’t over. For many, trauma is relived day after day. For many the pain in their bodies and their missing limbs remind them of the horrors of war.

Can we thank them enough? Can we create a world in which war is rare? Can we ensure their post-war care is strong and fruitful?

For their risks, for their sacrifices, we honor them. For the veterans who are now our saints, we celebrate their memories with love.

May peace abide in their hearts. May comfort claim their souls. May we see that our lives are connected to their efforts, and their care is essential to the Body of Christ being whole.

Amen.

Liturgy for the Great Commandment

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Invocation
Divine Ocean of Love,
As we peer into the horizon of the unknown
And dreams dwindle,
May your source of peace connect us with you.
Allow us to soak in rays of hope as we seek your presence in tumultuous times.
Focus our hearts on our neighbors-
The ones like us and the ones very different,
The ones who love us and those who despise us.
For when we remember the great connection between you and our neighbors, loving God,
We will thrive. All of us together will endure trials triumphantly.
And we will feel less alone as we walk through patches of shadows.
Amen.

Blessing on Gifts
Through the Great Commandment, we seek ways to share love more boldly.
Through the Great Commandment, we listen more intently to our Divine Source of Love.
We ask our God of Love to bless our giving-
From the money we share to the time we spend caring.
Through our gifts, may our neighbors experience your presence surrounding them.
Amen.

Benediction
Boldly we face the world.
Yet we know that we are not alone.
The God of Love walks before us,
The Spirit of Hope walks behind us,
The Christ our Neighbor walks next to us,
Encouraging us to share Divine love with one another.
Amen.

(c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian – permission to use with attribution

Anniversaries and Grief

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Today’s the third anniversary of my dad’s death. While I’m doing ok living in a world absent of his voice, I obviously miss him greatly.

The thing I noticed about my grief is that it takes on different forms. Maybe I feel a bit of malaise. Maybe my mind is more distracted. Maybe my blood pressure becomes elevated. (The last one has been an issue whenever someone close to me dies.)

What I must remember is that I am required to be kind to myself this week each year. The day I got the call about dad’s cardiac arrest was extremely traumatic. The week sitting by his bedside and sleeping in hospital and hospice rooms was exhausting. The memories of this week cause a number of feelings to bubble up and many that are just below the surface.

I’m off today. I can tell. My grief is not the outpouring of tears all of the time. But it’s present. I will keep going, and I’m grateful for God’s grace to cover my mistakes and distracted mind and God’s peace to accompany the traumatic memories.

Just like the last three years, I’ll get through this.

A Prayer for Grandparents on Grandparents’ Day

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God of our Living Saints,

May we celebrate the grandparents among us and the ones who have passed on.
With gratitude, we acknowledge the love they shared with us-
From the dinners cooked to the trips taken.

We bless the grandparents who are taking on extra duties-
Sitting with children learning lessons and sharing their homes with children whose parents aren’t around.

We pray for their energy as they work hard imparting wisdom, and we ask for your healing love to sustain them as they continue to grow older.

We thank you also for the bonus grandparents among us: the step-grandparents, the great-aunts and uncles, and the ones who have filled the roles of grandparents for us. May they know what impact they have made on our lives.

God of the autumn harvest, bless the fruits of these relationships, that they may multiply and we keep these memories with us forever.

Amen.

A Prayer for Students Starting School, COVID-19 Style

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Creator God, source of all knowledge and wisdom-
In this unique era of our lives,
When laptops on kitchen tables
And masks in public spaces
Have become our norm,
We ask for blessing of our students.

Some of these young scholars will be learning in classrooms.
We pray for health in body, mind, and soul.
Bless their masks as they wear them from first bell to last.
Bless the air in the classrooms.  Bless their unusual recesses and lunchtimes.
May wellness be their companion.

Some of our learners are absorbing knowledge from new spaces-
Laptops instead of smartboards
Dining room tables instead of desks.
May their focus be great.
May connections grow between students and teachers
And students with one another.
We pray for health in mind, soul, and body.
Bless the energy in their homes, and the loved ones assisting them.

Bless the students navigating education
As they split their time between home and school-
Parents, grandparents and friends.
We pray for health in soul, mind, and body
We pray for the health of all their connections.
May their unique schooling inspire all of us to think outside of boxes.

Bless the parents wondering how to balance all of this.
The family members who are classmates and teachers in our current world.

Bless the teachers, staff, and administrators leading in this new realm of education.

Bless our communities as we work to stay well and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

May 2020 be the year in which we grow with you, God of wisdom.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Sad Days of the Pandemic

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God of laughs and tears-
In this dreadful episode of our lives,
When the days are long and nearly the same
And our adventures are limited,
The grief is pouring from our heavy hearts.

For some, the work is getting harder.
Our taxed minds are exhausted from making decisions.
We feel isolated, neglected, dismissed-
Sad.
Where is the energy we had at the beginning?
We were going to save the world with our work!
But two weeks became a month which became a season.
And nearly six months later,
What now?

On top of all of this,
Children are learning remotely,
Parents must learn to be two places at once.
We are dreading the spread of COVID,
And our loved ones are very sick and dying.

When will life return to normal?
Will life return to normal?
Will we sleep normally again?

O God, show your presence in these cloudy days
When the waters of visioning are murky
And we don’t know how to style tomorrow.

O God, show us your presence as our hearts sink
And as the winds of the unknown swirl around us.

Fill our souls with hope,
And may we see the land of possibilities again.

Amen.

International Cat Day Blessings of the Cats

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Creator of the furry friends,
on this International Day of Cats
bless our feline friends.

Whether they are hiding under beds
or rubbing their faces to ours,
bless their sweet paws as they run from the kitchen to the bedroom.

Bless their mouths in their cleaning and eating.

Bless their happy purrs and meows of despair.

Holy one, in our joy and sadness
our cats sit by us,
as we know our forever connection was designed by you, God.

Amen

A Prayer for Purple Heart Day

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God of strength and resilience,
on this Purple Heart Day,
we celebrate the valor of our service member siblings.

We remember the ones who risked their lives-
those who returned to us- some healed, others healing,
and those who sacrificed their lives- now abiding with God on that side of heaven.

God of broken bodies and shattered souls,
we pray for our siblings injured in a time of war or during a time of service.
May their stories be lifted and spirits elevated.
May the light of the Divine be a balm to the injuries marked on their souls and hearts.
May the winds of the Spirit build their resilience.
May we, as your children, Holy One, advocate for their healing.

Allow us to see our place in the well-being of all our neighbors and, especially today, the ones who are the wounded brave.

Amen.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons