“April is the cruelest month, breeding /Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering /Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
So begins TS Eliot’s epic poem, The Waste Land, that was born out of the devastation of World War I. It seems somehow to suit the restlessness that is starting to make itself felt here. Ever since I was young, April has been for me, the cruelest month. I remember riding the Hudson Line train from Manhattan to Connecticut, my head leaning against the window, almost crying at the beauty of the early April blossoms. They were so fragile and lovely. Their time was so short - the fragile white and pink translucent petals blown away by the wind, rain-washed to the ground.
None of that has changed for me, though decades have past. I still greet April with trepidation, knowing the frail exquisite beauty of Nature coming awake will be almost too much for me to bear. The tiny flours that appear overnight and disappear just as quickly.
This year, April brought its fairy blossoms, the early lilacs and tulips and cherry and crabapple blossoms along with the “stay at home” order in which much of the world has spent April, and now May.
The older I get, the more jealous I am of the missed days that might have spent in nature, spent with friends. That said, living in Germany, one of the safest countries at this point in our global history, I am grateful for access to healthcare, ample food and nice neighbors. I am grateful to be accompanying our congregation of the Evangelical Church in Wiesbaden during this time, where loneliness and frustration at “no-end-in-sight” is taking a toll on older single people. Sometimes it’s an advantage to be not so young - I know how they feel – I know how we feel, seeing how quickly the thread of life can spin itself out; seeing that the lilacs smell as heady to me now as they did when I was 12.
I’ve never been a friend of electric gadgets and computer technology. But I will confess, the gift that this pandemic has given to our congregation is that, for the first time in these nearly eight years, we are able to celebrate worship together every Sunday – via zoom, of course. Until then, as guests of the Bergkirche, we were only in the church the first Sunday of the month. The very first Sunday the churches closed, a mutual friend invited me to join the zoom worship at Greenpoint Reform Congregation in Brooklyn. As soon as the service was over, I set up an account with zoom and we celebrated worship together the following Sunday along with our weekly Bible Discussion Group. Though we’ve lost our beloved Dinner Church for the time being, we’ve gained 3 or 4 extra worship services a month that allow members who have moved away to come back “to church.” Our pianist provides musical accompaniment from his home studio and, thanks to a contract that the state church has with GEMA – the music copywriting monitor – we are able to invite choirs and solo singers from all walks of spiritual music via YouTube. And so I have entered the electronic age at last!
I want to thank Global Ministries and each person who supports our work here. Our congregation is a United Nations in microcosm, with participants from the US, England, China, France, Turkey, Cameroon and of course Germany. We all have long prayer lists these days – I know. If you could add a prayer for us, we’d be grateful.
Rosalind Gnatt serves with the Evangelical Church of Hesse-Nassau, Germany. Her appointment is made possible by gifts to the Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, and your special gifts.