I moved to Baltimore in late 2012, and I felt like my new city and new church were on the verge of great things. Baltimore had unique neighborhoods, grand plans, wonderful people, and successful sports teams. Emmanuel had a dynamic priest whose sermons and liturgies challenged me to think in ways I had never imagined. Worship services were profound experiences. It seemed like everyone was full of energy and excited about what our church could do.
Within a few years, the riots happened, the Red Line was canceled, violence began increasing, buildings I loved were demolished, and candidates who seemed most able to address these challenges did not win. The presidential election did not help my pessimism. At Emmanuel, the priest who had meant so much to me was gone, and the future that had seemed so promising was uncertain. In both my city and my church, I had wanted to be along for the ride as great things happened, but I was afraid that we were headed in the opposite direction.
I still have these concerns about Baltimore and America. However, what I’ve experienced at Emmanuel over the last two years has not been decline, but Lent. It has been a time of reflection, reconciliation, and renewal. I realized that great things were not going to happen on their own—I had to do something. As a church, we realized that we couldn’t wait for a great leader to show us the way. Through efforts such as the urbanites, sponsoring the Syrian family, and the anti-racism group, we have become a stronger community and are making an impact beyond our walls. Lent is about preparing for Easter, and I feel that Emmanuel is prepared for our new rector. These two years of Lent have made us ready to do even greater things than I originally imagined, and I don’t think we could have been here without going through these challenging times.
On a related note, I wonder how to transition from Lent to Easter. This year, the abrupt change from somber to joyous will be difficult for me. I will be attending my aunt’s funeral in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Easter Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the massacre at my alma mater. The timing of these events serves perhaps as a tragic reminder that the struggles of Lent do not end on Easter and that we can’t expect to return to our pre-Lent naivety once Easter arrives.