Going . . . going . . . gone: the Dolly Mama’s Guide to Spirituality

The office as we know it is likely gone. Why office when you can zoom?

School as we know it is likely gone. Why drive to school when you can plug into it?

Worship as we know it is likely gone. When small congregations figure out how to worship with the bigger ones, the ones with the good equipment, church buildings and temples will likely become the true museums most of them already are.

The handshake has passed. The elbow is in. Shopping is likely gone. Amazon’s delivery deviltry was already in charge of the future. Flying is out, hotels are out, vacations are out. Walks in the park are in.

The outer world is going and the inner world is taking hold. This shift is the best news there could possibly be — since externals had long been beating internals, 12–1. Lions 12, Christians 1 is the other way to count.

The individual is going, and the collective is prevailing. Queen Corona knows nothing about class or race and we won’t have enough time to teach her. We may even find a silver lining in what was previously understood as the higher horseshit: we are all one. We are not individuals but members, one another. E pluribus Unum. With liberty and justice for all.

This truth hasn’t been taken out for a drive for a while, not since Katrina and Sandy and 9- 11. Their lessons were fleeting, except for the occasional feel good Mr. Rogers movie. The lessons are now parked in your front yard, blocking your driveway, infecting your spirit with its solemnity. Truth is like that. It doesn’t budge; it just goes missing for decades at a time.

Wasting is out and green is in, and not just as an alternative but as ordinary. Thrift and saving are as compulsory as the virtual, as commanded as the muting, as punishable as getting too close to someone in the park.

Elections are also fake news and in more trouble than we have time for today. Typhoid Trump, however, is likely to fall ill between now and them.

Easter and Passover are gone, at least as we know them. They are both there and not there, and powerfully so. Like ventilators, we are desperate for the fresh breath of the religious holidays but don’t have enough of them.

We might gather if we are really lucky with this bug, but the smart money is on the religious holidays joining Broadway in going dark. Theater may depend on an audience; faith does not. Faith likes an audience but doesn’t require one.

During the time of the Black Plague in the middle ages, people were required to go to church at 11:00 a.m. every day. That was before they knew phrases like “flatten the curve” or “social distancing” or, for that matter, molecular biology.

The weekend is also gone. No snark intended but losing sports and kids’ soccer and bars and restaurants is probably harder on people than virtual worship. Yale librarian Judith Ann Schiff explained how the weekend was invented. In 1926 Yale put an end to compulsory chapel attendance for students. The end of compulsory Sunday church services meant that everyone could live it up in the city. Now prayer is so necessary that you don’t even have to make it compulsory.

The renewed attention to the inner will be a boost to dinosauring religious organizations. “Stop the train, I want to get off, “ was my pre-virus mantra. I have moved home to psalms and hymns.

Religious themes matter. We know about Easter and its affirmation of life after death, and Passover and its insistence on liberation for the captives. Do we have to gather to remember these themes? Nope. They exist even if we don’t consider or celebrate them. Or if we have to observe them alone. Or if we can’t find a shank bone or an Easter egg to color. They are not their outer trappings. They are their inner truths. You’ve always wanted to learn how to meditate or how to have an authentic spiritual experience. Now, courtesy of the plague, you can. Spiritual clarity is neither going nor gone. We may not like what we see but some heavy-duty spiritual crap is firmly on our screen. Could someone please mute me?

The Dolly Mama is an ordained Baptist/UCC pastor with 42 years leading congregations. She is intrigued by the Buddhism of the Dalai Lama and the music of Dolly Parton. She is married to a practicing Jew. Her spirituality is blended and blending. Her last published book of 37 is ‘I HEART YOU FRANCIS: LOVE LETTERS FROM A RELUCTANT ADMIRER. Queen Corona has asked her to say something, and she has agreed. The recipe is one-part detachment, one-part engagement, all unbearably light.

Donna Schaper is Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church and writes avocationally as the Dolly Mama. She is an irregular Baptist and UCC Clergy person.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store