By the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr.,
Visiting Bishop for the Diocese of South Carolina
In these recent days, we are being shown how interconnected and interdependent we are in this world. The sudden global pandemic has made us aware how what any one of us does can affect many others. We have seen this applies not just to individuals but also to nations, states, and cities. The world is a luminous, yet fragile, web of relationships.
As we look toward more “re-opening” of our society and eventually the churches, we need to take this to heart. We must think interdependently, not just individually. There is a vintage Peanuts cartoon strip that shows Snoopy lying contentedly on the top of his doghouse, saying “I am so glad to be independent.” A big bone is then tossed in front of his house. He says, “Well, maybe semi-independent.”
One of our besetting human sins is to think mostly of ourselves: my needs, my wants, my rights, my independence. “Natural” though it may be, this is not an adequate way to live. Our faith’s most significant contribution to human moral wellbeing has always been the emphasis on our responsibility to care for each other.
St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “we are members of one another.” To the Philippians he stressed: “Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” He describes this mind as one of loving concern and self-giving for the other. Learning to live as members of one another is the great revolution of life with which our faith challenges us.
John Donne wrote, “No man is an Island, intire of itselfe; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the maine;…any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” The Christian moral vision has never been better expressed. In these present days, it should be written over each of our doorsteps.
When we are advised to keep safe distances between each other and to wear masks in public places—as much as we may prefer not to—let us take this moral vision to heart. When we consider what to purchase, let us remember what others need as well. “Me first” thinking will not see us safely through this pandemic. Looking to the interests of others is the good and right way. In so doing we contribute to the safety of our neighbors and our society, and finally ourselves.
There is an old rabbinic story that when God created the universe his divine light was placed into special celestial containers. Things did not go according to plan, as humanity turned in on ourselves. The vessels were broken and the universe became filled with sparks of divine light. The task of creation would not be complete until those sparks were gathered together. Each of us is given some of these sparks. The rabbis called putting them to use “Tikkum Olam,” the repair of the world.
This is a time for gathering the sparks. We are all involved in Mankind.
The Rt. Rev. Henry Nutt Parsley, Jr.
During the uncertain times created by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, leadership of the diocese will send out regular meditations on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays for the next while as we all adjust to a new chapter of living and being the Church.