by Freda Marie Brown
Living into this 8th month of the COVID-19 global pandemic reminds me of another time in my life. It was the one and only time I ever got a “pink slip.” It came unexpectedly, out of the blue, and totally disrupted my life and the life of my family because I was the primary breadwinner.
I was the palliative care chaplain for a major health system which included a Level 1 trauma center, a tertiary-care hospital, and a smaller community hospital in the northern suburbs of the city. I loved my work of providing support to the dying, their families, and friends. I thought I had found my “niche” in life. I was happy.
On this particular day, I was in CCU of one of the facilities with family as life support was being discontinued on one of our patients. I received a call on my pager to contact the pastoral care office. When I did, I was asked to come down to the office when I could. I thought, “No problem, later is soon enough.”
When I arrived, I was greeted by the Vice President of Pastoral Services and the Department Manager. They asked me to sit down, handed me a letter to read, and waited for my response. Of course, I was crushed. I had no words.
After the initial shock, nothing prepared me for later… when fear and anxiety really set in! My mind was filled with questions like, “How’re we going to pay the mortgage? Or what will our future or our daughter’s future look like now?” I was already 45 years old, scared and with no resources beyond the income already coming into our household.
My mom was here at that time and gave me some motherly advice. She reminded me to go back to what I know. The only way to know how God was speaking to my life situation was to ask. So, I did. I prayed… and I listened. I learned not to disregard the voice within me who sounded like me. I discovered that God’s Presence really was within me giving me a sense of guidance, resilience, and peace. That Presence resides within you as well.
In that really dark place, I discovered through my relationship with God an unprecedented invitation to reimagine my life. I discovered that the more thought and energy I gave to the what if’s, the more anxious and agitated I became. I learned to live more fully into the “Serenity Prayer.”
Sisters and brothers of other mothers, we are now being given an opportunity to reimagine life in a new way; in a godly way that more closely aligns with the way of Jesus Christ as we learn through Scriptures and see expressed through his followers within and beyond the walls of the church. It is a WAY which does not shut out but invites in; a WAY that seeks to heal the wounded and gives hope to the hopeless. This WAY is already available to us and resides within us, but it’s expression through us is not without a cost. It is the WAY of LOVE. It is inconvenient, messy, and only occasionally comfortable. Nevertheless, it is the heart of the Gospel.
When we have closed the book on this pandemic (and yes, it will happen) I see a whole new horizon opened up to us. I see us being honest and truthful with ourselves and with each other. I see us honoring our relationships with other human beings and with the rest of creation instead of ignoring and disregarding their inherent dignity. I see the Beloved Community existing all over the world. It can happen. It’s up to us to reimagine it so.
With many “air hugs” …6 feet away of course!
Serenity Prayer – Full Version (composed in 1940s)
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971)
The Rev. Freda Marie Brown is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland currently serving as Associate Rector at The Church of the Redeemer, Baltimore. She formerly served as the Executive Director of St. Vincent’s House in Galveston, a 501(c)3 non-profit and Jubilee Ministry of the Diocese of Texas. Prior to coming to the Diocese of Texas, she was the Associate Rector at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation in the Diocese of Dallas. She received her undergraduate degree from Xavier University of Louisiana and was employed as a clinical laboratory director for 21 years at St. Paul Medical Center in Dallas before saying “yes” to God’s call to be ordained priest in His Church. She earned a Master of Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, Dallas and a Master of Arts in Religion (with a concentration in Anglican Studies) from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX. For 7 years she served as a Palliative Care chaplain in hospice and hospital settings and has spent many hours serving the dying and those who love them.
She loves her work among God’s people and is constantly amazed by the many disguises of Jesus Christ —especially among the marginalized. She enjoys yoga, gardening, cooking, hiking, reading, writing, and listening to jazz. She loves good food, good wine, and good conversation. She is Crystal’s Mom.
Freda is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort and her writing focuses on the intersectionality of Christian spirituality with what may commonly be called energetics or specifically energy medicine.