Stories of St. Paul’s
Once a week, we are sharing a piece of one person or family’s story during this time of physical distancing. This is based on “Humans of New York” — which features interviews from a variety of people from all over the world.
Stories of St. Paul’s includes a brief reflection written by one person or family along with a few photos to share their story. Through reading these posts, we hope that you will learn a little more about one another and feel a closer connection to our community while being physically distant.
JULY 31 | The Rev. Dr. William Bradley Roberts (Bill) and David Wesley Hoover (David)
David Hoover and Bill Roberts have been members of St. Paul’s for only seven months, having moved to Richmond from Alexandria. David was a psychotherapist there (and continues to be), and Bill, an Episcopal priest, was Professor of Church Music at Virginia Theological Seminary, following in the footsteps of Ray Glover, who held that position after being the beloved Organist-Choirmaster at St. Paul’s. Our attraction to Richmond had largely to do with the presence of our son Seth and his wife Libby, both physicians, and our fabulous granddaughters, Eleanor and Emelia, all pictured here. While at St. Paul’s, Bill conducted a concert, featuring the choirs of our parish and All Saints. David has led classes and meditation groups for St. Paul’s.
“Church” to us means people, gathered in the name of Christ, for worship, formation, and service. Being the “Church in the world” means praying for and actively serving people beyond the walls of our parish. Here’s how we would describe St. Paul’s: A people who are passionately engaged with each other and with like-minded partners to worship God and to serve our Lord and the world’s need. This is seen in our marvelous music, superb preaching, providing food for the hungry, and, most notably, combatting the evils of racism and white supremacy in our own parish history and in the community around us.
We are getting to know more and more parishioners and find that St. Paul’s is exactly the right place for us and has become our church home. Thanks be to God!
JULY 24th | Share with us what your pets are thinking!
We invite you to submit one picture of your pet and provide a caption (one word or a few sentences) from the pet’s perspective answering, “What are you thinking?”
Please submit your photo and caption to email@example.com by Tuesday, July 28th at 5:00 p.m. They will be published on Friday, August 7th.
Here is an example from Keli (Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Paul’s) and Marcus Cooper’s 70-pound-beagle-basset Bowser.
**Please note that Keli assumed Marcus could read her mind and know that these responses are meant to be one word or a few sentences (does anyone else assume their partner can read their mind?). That being said, the longer response from Marcus was too funny not to share; but, remember that these are only expected to be short responses.
Shorter Example: “They’re not leaving. What is happening? Have they been fired? No, still glued to their laptops all of the time. Talking to other faces on the screen all of the time. Showing me off all of the time.”
Marcus’ longer version: “I have heard my roommates talk ad nauseam about “phases” since they began this prolonged era of constantly being home so I will adopt that terminology for my soliloquy here:
Phase 1: They’re not leaving. What is happening? Have they been fired? No, still glued to their laptops all of the time. Talking to other faces on the screen all of the time. Showing me off all of the time. Honestly, I could do without them picking me up so I’m visible to the other faces on their screens (except my cousins- they’re alright).
Phase 2: They’re still here. This is too good to be true. It’s hot and humid. I’m loving the frequent walks, but I can’t make it far. I’m not afraid to lie down in the middle of the road. Ask Keli. It freaks her out. My neighborhood crew thinks it’s hilarious, though! My roommates keep complaining about all of these events they were invited to that have been canceled – no more music festivals or weddings on the horizon. More time for me to sunbathe in the backyard. The perfect summer.
Phase 3: Love a good car ride. One was to the mountains. Less humid, but no A/C in the cabin- at least the mountain breeze felt good at night. Marcus took me on a long hike the morning before we left. Right after I ate breakfast. Should’ve waited 30 minutes for it to digest. Should’ve laid down in the middle of the trail. But I slept the whole way home with A/C blasting on my face. Returned to an even hotter Richmond. My roommates fight over the A/C in the house. They flip flop on who wants it colder and who says not to touch the thermostat. Felt like they used to keep it colder when they were leaving all day, could use more of that, but nobody asked for my input! Except for the good people of St. Paul’s! Thank you – it’s nice to be heard every once in a while!”
JULY 17th | Mary Fran and Fletcher Lowe
– Reflection written by Mary Fran and Fletcher
In 1957 we met dancing at St. Bartholomew’s in NYC. Fletcher was in seminary; Mary Fran worked on the Chrysler Building’s 64th floor. Courting in church and the Big Apple can be romantic! Recently we continued as dance partners celebrating our 61st wedding anniversary with good friends on their porch ala Chinese take-out, wine and social distancing. Our three children live in “exotic” but distant places in the USA: John (Nancy), Flagstaff, AZ; Elizabeth and her 2 twenties daughters in the Bay area of CA; and Suzanne (Jeff) and their 2 teenage sons in Asheville, NC. Zoom and Facetime give us virtual opportunities to stay in touch.
Fletcher has served congregations in SC, VA (Rector Emeritus, Church of the Holy Comforter, Richmond), DE and Europe (Munich, Rome, Brussels, Geneva, Florence and Paris). When the children had flown the coop and the dog had died, our lives were enriched on sabbatical with Mother Teresa’s sisters, studying at St. George’s College (East Jerusalem) and tracing St. Paul’s journeys in Turkey and Greece.
Mary Fran’s career experience included government, medical and hospice work. She has a special gift for hospitality, a “muffin” ministry, is a green thumb Master Gardener, a swimmer and an avid reader. Fletcher, a has-been All American Lacrosse goalie, was on the founding board and later Executive Director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, convenes a national Episcopal group focused on Baptismal living, and visits Episcopal inmates in Virginia prisons. Travel has been a special gift for both of us.
St. Paul’s is our worshipping community and a place where we are refreshed and refueled in order to live out our faith daily. Fletcher’s favorite metaphor of a congregation is a “base camp”: to encourage, equip, support and empower “the hikers” in their daily ministries.
Mary Fran joined St. Paul’s in 1996, has been involved with pastoral care and leads the Historical Tour ministry. Fletcher followed and has been a priest in residence, made pastoral visits with 125 members in their workplaces and currently is involved with the History and Reconciliation Initiative.
JULY 10th | Bob and Edie Patterson
– Reflection written jointly by Bob and Edie
Like many others, our life was turned upside down when COVID-19 arrived. While we had planned to move residences earlier in the year, the challenge of doing so in May was something we could not have imagined. Edie had already given notice to leave her job at Soft Surroundings to become certified in the Birkman Method. She has always been passionate about helping those faced with career development issues, something especially important today.
Bob was less affected by COVID as his business has been home-based for several years; thank goodness for Zoom! He is the principal caretaker for our rescue dog, Shadow, whom he has nicknamed “Fleabag”. He is pursuing his interest in practical ethics through a course from the University of Edinburgh. He continues his training for the next Triathlon and laughs about being included in the Clydesdale class!
Both children are well. Our son lives in Salt Lake City living his dream. He just finished a 50-mile race in the Wasatch Mountains. Our daughter is also well, living in DC working for a pension administration firm. She’s pursuing advanced degrees in sports management at GW and may combine it with an MBA. We enjoy virtual visits and hope to have a week or two together at a family house in the Adirondacks this fall.
For us, Church is where we go to regain wholeness, be amidst the faith of others, and be supported by the Body of Christ. Church encompasses liturgy, music, prayer, community expression of faith, and the place/time when we present the entirety of our human frailty while at the same time gaining strength because we face our truths. For us, St. Paul’s offers a safe place to do this, or as Edie says it so well, St. Paul’s is “a lodestar of faith in action within and without the congregation.”
Bob and Edie were married in 1984 following Bob completing his MBA in Switzerland. They came to Richmond in 2008 and joined St. Paul’s in 2009. Edie was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Virginia and helped start their woman’s Lacrosse team. Amongst her other accomplishments, she was a Board member of the Junior League of Washington, DC, the second largest in the country. Bob is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute where he was a member of the Varsity Swimming team. He continues pursuing his entrepreneurial visions and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club where he mentors middle schoolers in technology.
JULY 3rd | Ellen Spong and Gus Epps
– Reflection written by Ellen Spong
Pre-COVID-19 visits with my parents included a Saturday morning gathering with my sister at my parents’ home for cheese toast, a family breakfast specialty created by my mother in the early 1970s when morning mealtime had become more of a “drive-by” than a gathering. That brown toast baked with bubbling sharp cheddar cheese, divine and memorable, had been transformed into a new family tradition.
The pandemic arrived and life changed dramatically. Visiting my parents was no longer possible. Isolation was required and “Cheese Toast” Saturdays were on indefinite hold. Planning for Easter was especially difficult. Attending St. Paul’s together was a memory. How would we celebrate?
Enter plastic Easter eggs, dog biscuits, and a second-floor balcony. On Easter Sunday I delivered a basket of plastic eggs filled with dog biscuits to my parents’ door. Our two dogs, Gretchen and Pumpkin, accompanied Gus and me on the visit. I invited my parents to come out on their balcony for the 2020 edition of the “Easter egg hunt.” They tossed dog biscuits from the balcony and the dogs took turns chasing down those treats. The dogs learned quickly to look up at my parents and “sit” for their biscuits. Very smart dogs.
A grand success for both human and beast, the “biscuit toss” was repeated the following week and has since evolved into an everyday opportunity to see each other – albeit at a distance. We talk over the phone during “the toss” and review the news of the day. There is quite a bit to discuss and a lot of dog biscuits. It is a rich experience.
In a crisis, there is always creativity. And creativity opens up all kinds of possibilities to live life differently and yet fully, sharing simple joys that we would have otherwise never known. As the focal point of a new family tradition, Gretchen and Pumpkin are very lucky dogs. And we are fortunate to have health and time with each other.
Ellen Spong and Gus Epps have been members of St. Paul’s since 1969. Ellen is the Director of the Institutional Advisory Group at Atlantic Union Bank and serves on the boards of the MCV Foundation, The Richmond Forum and the Westminster Canterbury Foundation. She teaches indoor cycling classes when there is not a health crisis. Gus is a lawyer at Williams Mullen specializing in insolvency and bankruptcy matters. Gretchen and Pumpkin contribute mightily to the health and happiness of the family. Ellen serves on the St. Paul’s Vestry as Junior Warden – you can read her Vestry Bio HERE.
JUNE 26th | The Burns Family
Laura and Andy
– Reflection written by Laura.
Andy and I spent our time pre-COVID-19 planning our wedding for April 18, 2020 with 150 family members and friends. About two and a half weeks before our wedding, the news was getting worse that the virus was spreading. Other people were canceling or postponing their weddings, and we decided for the safety of our community we would postpone as well.
However, we still decided to get married in our backyard with just our officiant and photographer. We scheduled a Zoom call so that our immediate family and bridal party could watch live. It was a beautiful day and a very sweet, intimate ceremony. We exchanged vows and rings and we still had champagne and a small cake. Later that night, our family sent us a video of everyone dancing in their living rooms to the song Forever by Chris Brown. It was so fun to see everyone dancing so silly and still celebrating with us.
We are still planning to host a reception with our family and friends and are just happy to be married and healthy. With the previous stay at home order, it has been nice to spend a lot of time together away from the hustle of busy life and just enjoy each other’s company.
Laura has been a member of St. Paul’s since the fall of 2016 when she moved to Richmond for an internship at VCU Health. After meeting Andy during the internship, she chose to stay and started working in community health programs as a registered dietitian. Laura and Andy live in the Fan with their dog, Calvin.
JUNE 19th | The Chawla Family
Sarah | Mark | Ryan | Nathan
– Reflection written by Sarah Chawla with additions from her husband Mark Chawla in bolded font
On March 14, days after the reality of COVID-19 began to hit the U.S., we returned home from a trip with our extended family to Costa Rica. (Do you really want to start a piece about the challenges of COVID-19 by mentioning your return from a tropical paradise?) Suddenly, Mark was working from home, rotating his workspace from our kids’ playroom to our kitchen (say something about how hard I work in case someone from Capital One reads this), and my life as a stay-at-home mom who didn’t really stay at home changed, to say the least.
Overall, we just feel gratitude for the time our family now has together. We eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner as a family. Mark and I have more dates than ever before since they don’t involve scheduling a babysitter and making reservations. Every Saturday, we do curbside pick-up from a local restaurant and eat dinner together…without the kids! Our boys, Ryan (3) and Nathan (1), have been forced to have lots of time together and are becoming buddies (with an occasional shove and a fair bit of screaming). Life has slowed down, and with that slowness, it feels easier and sweeter in so many ways. Without the Children’s Museum, Science Museum, or playgrounds, we spend lots of time just playing outside, making piles of sticks, examining leaves, and throwing balls (Did you throw this in so our kids sound sporty? It’s mostly just sticks and leaves).
We’ve caved and made a few purchases like a giant climbing dome that took an entire weekend to assemble (and then Ryan broke his collar bone and hasn’t been able to climb on it since), a “rock box,” (you might want to explain this is a sandbox for people who don’t like to get dirty) and a swing for a toddler who barely knew what a swing looked like. We have tried new things, like the drive-through zoo (which was awesome), and felt forced into others, like buying 100 pounds of flour from a restaurant depot when no other flour seemed available (you should definitely point out that you could have gone with one 50 pound bag, but to the dismay of your husband, you went with TWO 50-pound bags). We are lucky to have children young enough that they don’t too much miss the “before” and who can get accustomed to almost anything. Mask-wearing has even become sort of normal. At first, both kids cried; now, we play peek-a-boo with our masks.
This is such a hard time for so many individuals and for our country as a whole. We are aware every day of how lucky we are to merely have a few inconveniences and an opportunity to reconnect with what matters in life. In the “post-COVID era,” we hope to hold on to the slower pace of life and finding joy and gratitude in the little things.
Sarah grew up in Richmond attending St. Paul’s, and she and Mark were married there in 2015. Sarah stays at home with their two boys, Ryan and Nathan, and Mark has worked at Capital One since coming to Richmond in 2002. Both Sarah and Mark have a love of travel (that recently has involved only excursions to the upstairs playroom or to the backyard). Online church has improved their whole-family church attendance. (Everyone should be very appreciative that we can’t be heard).
JUNE 12th | The Hayes Family
Anne | Dion | Elizabeth | Katie – Reflection written by Anne Hayes
When I practiced law, I had a knack for finding answers to obscure questions. So, when St. Paul’s organized the History and Reconciliation Initiative after the racially motivated 2015 Charleston murders, I immersed myself in the church’s history and learned many troubling headlines today have parallels to St. Paul’s complicated past. I encourage parishioners to read Christopher Graham’s Blind Spots for more on that topic.
When the pandemic hit, I went looking for answers again from former parishioners who have become so familiar to me. In 1918, they experienced similar challenges – closures and social distancing, face masks and handwashing, disproportionate risk to frontline workers, and balancing health and economic concerns. An article about St. Paul’s role in the Pandemic will be coming out soon – but until then, you can read my initial writings about it HERE.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges for our family. The girls are reluctantly home until Katie can safely return to UPitt and Elizabeth heads to NYC. Used to frequent travel, Dion is now working from his mostly empty office and my volunteer work has moved online. Grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry have increased considerably; however, we are fortunate. With everyone home, help is plentiful especially with Peanut, the dog, who is loving the attention. And, the slower pace has brought more frequent and meaningful conversations with family, friends, and neighbors.
Knowing St Paul’s survived the 1918 pandemic gives me hope. But recent protests and graffiti — including outside our church — remind me deep suffering exists that, unless addressed, will remain long after COVID-19 is a distant memory. I hope future generations will look back and see 2020 as a turning point.
Anne grew up in Greenville, SC, while Dion is from Norfolk, VA. They became members of St. Paul’s in 2011. Dion is an attorney at McGuireWoods. A former lawyer, Anne now volunteers with several organizations. They have two daughters, Elizabeth and Katie.
JUNE 5th | John B. Murray III
Before COVID-19, I was serving in a temporary role as an Associate at Old Dominion Public Affairs, lobbying members of the Virginia General Assembly during the 2020 session, with the potential of coming on permanently if all went well. I had just finished a year of successfully managing campaigns in Northern Virginia at the state and local level and was settling into a new role back home in Richmond with the wind at my back. Most of my time was spent in committee hearings or in meeting with legislators.
Then COVID hit and all of that changed. Suddenly my career was put on hiatus, and I found myself joining millions of other Americans in registering for unemployment. Fortunately, I’ve had a few life changes to help keep me busy. My lease in Shockoe Bottom was up in March, so I decided to make the move over to a much more spacious and dog-friendly loft in Church Hill. While I didn’t have a dog, I’d always wanted one and knew I needed an apartment that was open to the idea. The move came and went and once again I found myself with an exorbitant amount of free time. This free time led to perusing the list of available pets on the SPCA website which then quickly lead to adopting a handsome two-year-old beagle who I later renamed Baxter.
To say COVID has changed me would be an understatement. I’ve grown a beard, adopted a pup, reprioritized family time, and actually started cooking. The world seems less hurried and much more simplistic and in a way, everything is new again. Eventually, life will pick back up and some sense of normalcy will be restored but who really knows what that will look like – the possibilities are endless. For now, I take comfort in remote church, the occasional evening prayer, and the words of Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
John B. Murray, III is a cradle Episcopalian, recovering politico, West Point native, Hampden-Sydney grad, and new dog dad who spends his time perfecting chicken salad recipes in between frequent walks to the park. He recently served as campaign manager to State Senator Barbara Favola and Fairfax County Chairman Jeff McKay. John B. moved to Richmond in 2016 and has called St. Paul’s his spiritual home ever since.
MAY 29th | Joni and Mark Dray
– Reflection written by Joni and Mark
Clueless! Joni “homemaking,” “grandchildrening,” reading, volunteering. Mark “retired” tho’ still going to the office, playing golf, helping Joni make Souffles. Breakfast out, drinks with friends, grandchildren’s activities, Carver School, Forum, Ballet, Firehouse… The Virus rumbled, we left for Mexico. We did not lay in supplies!! We considered staying – lots of sun and nobody sick – but headed home. That meant quarantine.
How lucky we are to have a home at Wintergreen. We have been here since March 20th. We feel safe and do not worry about social distancing. We are watching Spring creep up the mountains and fog from the valley rise to cloud our windows. The Virus seems far away, and we feel a little guilty. We have each other. We are blessed but sad. We are especially missing family and friends and hugs from grandchildren. There is much need everywhere. We try to help.
We have been married for 55 years. Joni jokes this is because we spent so little time together! Mark worked long hours and Joni did everything else. Being together 24-7 has been a big change but has turned out to be a grand adventure. Time has slowed with few appointments or obligations. More talking and better listening – although we both know it all!!! Loving and caring has become more immediate and real. Mark has learned how to do lots on line. We are “Zooming,” and Joni has come to cherish the technology she once disdained. The greatest plus is reconnecting with so many family and friends.
Faith? We now attend on-line services, coffee hour, and Bible Study. We learn, catch up with old friends, and embrace new. Hearing God’s voice in this strange new world…having hope in the face of pestilence – seeking connection, healing, and love.
Joni and Mark grew up and attended college in Ohio. They were high school sweethearts. Their current RVA home at the Prestwould is located in the center of VCU’s Monroe Park Campus. They are dedicated City dwellers. Mark is a retired lawyer who practiced Benefits Law with Hunton & Williams and still does pro-bono work there. Joni is a retired 2nd-grade teacher, mother, and whatever. Their daughter Melisa, her husband Matt, and their grandchildren Adell and Luke live in Richmond, and their son Justin and his wife Libby live in Venice, California. Mark and Joni were drawn to St. Paul’s 50 years ago by great preaching, great mission, and great people.
MAY 22nd | The Jameses
Joseph (Joe) | Phyllis | Dominique | Douglass
– Reflection written by Joe James
I remember the day when COVID-19 took over our life. It was March 12th, and Phyllis was planning to leave for Florida on Friday the 13th. The plan at that time included a quick trip to spend a night with her mother in Port St. Lucie, and I would join her the next day for a vacation with my cousins in Tampa. It was a very quiet day at my place of work, and we were all content with the idea that COVID-19 would remain in New York and NOVA. We had received our PPE and placed them in a safe place knowing that we wouldn’t need them. About 11:00 a.m. my staff informed me that one of my patients was coming in after exposure to the coronavirus, and that he was not feeling well.
My family and I led a very quiet community-focused life prior to the pandemic. Phyllis and I are working at becoming empty nesters and no longer have to make emergency food trips to Williamsburg. My oldest son, Dominique recently moved to Chicago, and Douglass is threatening to move out soon. We travel as a family and enjoy each other’s company. With the arrival of the pandemic, all of our plans have changed; but, the thing is, I believe our family is now much closer even though our son is so far away.
Phyllis has set up her office in the dining room, and I’m still working out of my office. Douglass is still in graduate school and reports having an enormous amount of work all the time. My sartorial habits have changed drastically, my wife made a quick trip to Costco and bought me new pants. At first I refused to even consider the idea of wearing them but after a serious discussion I’ve adjusted nicely. I’m also expected to come home, change in the garage, shower immediately, and then I can interact with the family.
Over the past two months we’ve been in touch with many friends with whom we’ve lost touch. Instead of spending money on vacations and restaurants, we now cook at home. Prior to COVID-19, my oldest son and I were planning a Route 66 trip this spring. Instead we read together at lunchtime two days a week. Phyllis speaks with her mother, and Dominique, almost every day.
Working as a physician in a COVID-19 environment is scary. It reminds me of the days when I was training in New York and HIV made its presence known. I remember being afraid to even enter the room of patients with HIV/AIDs. Today I saw a patient with HIV, we had a great conversation. Hopefully, in a few months I’ll be able to have conversations without a mask and actually see smiles and even some frowns.
Phyllis and Joseph moved to Richmond from New York/Connecticut in 1997. They became members at St. Paul’s in 1997. Phyllis teaches at J Sargeant Reynold Community College and Joseph is an Internal Medicine Physician. They have two sons, Dominique and Douglass. Joseph is the Senior Warden at St. Paul’s.
MAY 15TH | Justin Castonguay and Keydron Dunn
– Reflection written by Justin Castonguay
“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strange. Ch-ch-changes. There’s gonna have to be a different man. Time may change me. But I can’t trace time…” We’re pretty sure Bowie got a glimpse of 2020 when he wrote these words. True – change is inevitable, but when it comes in floods instead of waves, it can be a lot to swallow at one time.
Keydron and I have been city boys and social butterflies over the past ten years – performing, networking, and being fabulous! Needless to say, physical distancing AND moving to the country have been quite the adjustment for us both. We were blessed to close on our first home on March 20, 2020. We purchased a beautiful house on an acre of land out in Henrico. The property came with a charming detached cottage where my mother is now living after spending her whole life in West Point. For us, right now is the perfect time to stay at home!
Luckily, both Keydron and I have been able to work from home during the quarantine. We both work at a coordinated care program for seniors with disabilities – the most vulnerable population to COVID-19. Death has always been a reoccurring theme of our job, but the numbers have spiked drastically as of late. It’s tough, but we try our best to make each precious moment joyful for them. I love overhearing Keydron call them all daily with his corny jokes, tricky trivia, and beautiful singalongs. I’m not sure he realizes that he warms my heart as much as theirs when he sends them messages of love.
It has been very cathartic for us to be able to “nest” and piece together our new Shangri La during this difficult time in the world. Now we’re blessed with so much green and sky and room to spread out which has greatly helped us maintain our sanity. The former owners had quite the green thumb, so as spring sprung, our yard filled with glorious colors and fragrances. We spend every nice day outside taking it all into our mind, body, and spirit. Every barefoot walk in the grass is a prayer. Every buzzing bee and songbird is a psalm. Every warm breeze through windows is a reminder of God’s Grace.
Justin and Keydron both work at InnovAge PACE, Program of All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly. Justin is an Administrator and Keydron provides Recreational Programming. Both are local performers of stage and screen and can be seen as their alter-egos Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside and Barnabas Beverly Burnside.
MAY 8TH | The Coogans
Dave | Joan | Lucy | Leo
– Reflection written by Dave Coogan
In BC-19, the time before the plague, Joan, Leo and Lucy were out the door by 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m., leaving me, Dave, to either be productive in my job as an English professor or play drums. Now the children sleep in while Joan slogs through meetings. Then they wake, descend the stairs, eat whatever, and watch. In quarantine, there are witnesses. They have their stories. I have mine.
We anticipated the need for comfort during this trying time. Joan discerned what this might entail, and Lucy heard the call to bake. But it still hurts. I can’t see my students face to face. I can’t do my podcast. I can’t go to band practice or play a gig. Lucy misses her many sundry meet-ups with friends. Leo has had to move his dungeons and dragons online. Joan and I have had to suspend our long-standing Saturday morning Sub Rosa date.
But nothing really changes. Each day, Joan shames me with just how much work she gets done. I try to compensate by cooking dinner. We eat. Leo treats us with a discourse on open-source coding and the evils of Big Tech. After dinner, Lucy and I sing and play at the piano and often post something fun to Facebook. We get likes letting us know who is listening, connecting. Other nights, we zoom with family, with old friends, and in these ways we remember who we are out there.
Each day is a gift. Wake, eat, work, walk. We are lucky. We want not. Compared with so many people I know from teaching writing at the jail who are out now struggling to survive, who don’t have a home to shelter in, who can’t wake and eat and wonder about “likes” on their social media but struggle to figure out the next move in life, we are blessed. Grateful. I have a phone that works and can tune in Charlie for evening prayer. What am I really missing?
As an English professor, I need to close by noting that the worst phrase in this crisis is “social distancing.” It’s just not that. That’s not what’s happening. It’s physical distancing. COVID-19 can’t stop us from being God’s people, plural, purposeful, joyful.
The Coogans live in Church Hill and have been attending St. Paul’s for 16 years. David is a professor at VCU and Joan works for the Federal Reserve. Lucy is a junior at Appomattox Regional Governors School and Leo is an 8th grader at Binford Middle School.