New worshiping community leader says Holy Week had a whole new meaning after a year of ‘being in the tomb’
September 20, 2021
For the Rev. Jeanie Shaw, leader of Eventide Community, a new worshiping community in Sacramento, California, Holy Week had a whole new meaning this year. As an active member of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team, people in her community are used to being sent into neighborhoods across the nation and around the world to work on PDA-connected projects.
Because of the pandemic, Eventide members haven’t been able to be present and face to face with those impacted by disaster. They haven’t met in person over a year, and Shaw’s volunteer work with PDA has been limited to providing emotional and spiritual care via Zoom to presbyteries dealing with disaster events.
“We’ve experienced being in the tomb, but we can see the beginning of the tomb being opened,” Shaw said, “where we can begin to hug our families, and worship together person to person.”
This truth came to Shaw when a small group of volunteers helped reinvent Eventide’s “Giving Room,” which pre-pandemic was filled with sleeping bags, tents, jackets, gloves, socks and hats for their homeless siblings to take what they needed during Sacramento’s wet winter weather.
In early January, Eventide turned the room into a “Giving Caravan.” Along with items to survive the weather, the caravan was also loaded with pies, bread, cans of food, juice boxes, energy bars, and peanut butter and jelly. One person helping Eventide contacted many of their homeless friends to come to a parking lot. Shaw wrote about the experience here, describing it as “one of the most sacred meals” she’d ever seen.
As a worshiping community that has accepted the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 invitation, which invites congregations to work at building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty, Eventide takes the mandate seriously. Shaw said they meet once a week “on holy Zoom” for Bible study related to the Matthew 25 invitation. Recently she and another Eventide leader, Nancy Disher, produced this “Stations of the Cross” for Good Friday, which she said was inspired by Matthew 25.
At each station is an image where members of Eventide have been on PDA mission trips over the years. The 11th station, where “Jesus promises his kingdom to the good thief,” has the one picture of the one place they weren’t able to go to — the people’s memorial to George Floyd — taken by one of Shaw’s friends.
For Shaw, putting together the stations of the cross in this way reminded her of what she has learned during the pandemic. For centuries, she said, churches worked to get people to come to them, to their sanctuaries. But she believes the pandemic, which closed church buildings, has changed the direction from having people come to the church to church and worshiping community members going out into the world.
“We’ve made it very clear we are not going back to worship in a physical space,” Shaw said. “We are going forward, knowing it will not be the same. In Mark 16 a young man in radiant white tells the woman at the tomb to tell the disciples that Jesus has gone ahead of them to Galilee. Jesus is ahead of us too, leading us to a whole new understanding of God’s love, post-pandemic.”
Shaw is also a three-quarter time pastor for Truckee Lutheran Presbyterian Church on the California border near Nevada. Under her leadership the church created “Operation Gratitude and Support,” which focused on thanking a different group of essential workers every month, especially for their service during the pandemic. You can read about that here.
Paul Seebeck, Mission Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Matthew 25 congregation
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
Holy God, keep the eyes of your faithful always looking for those in need, and make our hands willing to serve, so that others may glimpse your kingdom until it comes in fullness. Amen.