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From the Archive

Self Portrait
Detail from "Self Portrait," painting by Mark Saba.
Selected entries for display on our site:

The Death of Max Holland

Tim Bench, Chaplain at the Hendrick Medical Center Texas, USA

I met Max Holland in the Fall semester of 1987 at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. He was a year older than I was, and he was already an established member of one of the school’s “social clubs, which I pledged that Fall. He was exceptionally intelligent, had a dark sense of humor, and we became friends all those years ago. Max would eventually marry, and have two children, and would become a successful optometrist in Houston, and until just weeks ago, we still frequently shared political and social banter back and forth via Facebook (we shared many of the same political viewpoints).

Three weeks ago, Max fell ill, and complained of a sore throat and chest congestion. I encouraged him to get tested as soon as was possible, and he messaged me to let me know he had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and was not feeling well at all. I suggested he go to the hospital immediately…..and I would never speak to him again.

On May 6, Max Holland passed away. I was stunned when I received the news, and I am still stunned now. He was 54 years old, and was taken from this world so suddenly, and so unexpectedly, leaving behind a grieving family, a wide circle of friends, and a hole in the hearts of many of us who were especially close to him. He had no prominent comorbidities, other than having “gained some weight” over the years, and seemed to fully expect to recover from having been diagnosed with the virus.

There are no words, and no jewels of wisdom that I can provide to his wife Jennifer, or to his children, to help assuage their loss and devastation from the death of their husband and their father. I have spoken with Jennifer, and any words I can provide seem trite and pointless, and I struggle to even comprehend the loss that Max’s family is feeling now, especially his aging parents. I miss talking with him, and even today I have caught myself coming across a news item I know he would take interest in and clicking on his email address to forward him the link, and then I catch myself.

There are many today who dismiss this pandemic as simply an “old person’s illness,” and argue that the media “exaggerates” the threat and severity of this pandemic. Max Holland was not old, and was in fact in the prime of his life, and nor was he unhealthy, sickly, or leading a lifestyle which would have placed him at a greater risk of death from his diagnosis. His death is no “exaggeration.” My hope is that those reading from these archives decades from now will see and consider that the 2020-2021 COVID pandemic claimed lives of the young, the old, the healthy and the non-healthy, with victims across all spectrums of race, socioeconomic status, and location.

Rest in peace, my friend. I grieve your loss.

Teaching COVID19 during COVID19

Prof. Marney A. White, Yale School of Public Health Connecticut, USA


Noah Humphrey, Honolulu Hawaii (South Central LA will always be home), An Esssential Collection - Yale Divinity School, ULI Mentorship Hawaii, USA

Pair your memorable occasions on the palms of my hands

and parade the pastel clouds that prepare the palpable

precisions to plot the pests in purple plants.

And the predetermined energy pulses through poor public

authority plots of land that presupposes the preposterous

world places no purpose to the people who have peered under panic.


Noah Humphrey, Honolulu Hawaii (South Central LA will always be home), An Esssential Collection - Yale Divinity School, ULI Mentorship Hawaii, USA

Did you know for paradise one needs to be in hell

And burn with the riches of those stranded along trash cans

Your famous vacations to islands drenched with colonizations

Where you see babies without mothers but brochures to their heritage

Does that frustrate you?

Is that anger work with the spiritual divisions face the selfies you make

How’s your clout with a person unable to seethe through the interactions of the hope

And I can never truly be amazed with these interactions

We are so thankful for the visitors to come and not explore the magic of the land

To not reach their heart or devote their heart to the titan that is the controls of the world on

centered hands along with the crumbled shakas that fall on these foreigners hands

And I as a diaspora relative and I as a person

who seeks to devote healing

during my time in this land

that equips the godliness of humbly broken scriptures

to a cup and ships it to the mainland

The heart attacks and the escapes of time

can only bind a knot on the fatal cord

that is the false reality of paradise

on a forsaken ark

that others think is for them but those with the blood can fully access

and deserve sovereignty on this land.

My son is a stairway

Noah Humphrey, Honolulu Hawaii (South Central LA will always be home), An Esssential Collection - Yale Divinity School, ULI Mentorship Hawaii, USA

As the couple reconciles and grows stronger, they remember that their son Caleb

was a bridge before he passed away

They both remembered the bible story they told their son Caleb last, the stairway

to heaven

It was a tower but Caleb tried to climb the stairs thinking God was going to take


And maybe he knew before us. His innocent eyes flayed with the ocean and his

mulatto skin mixed with the smell of linen and cherries refreshed us day by day,

We thought that from losing him, we could fall down these same stairs to see him

But again, he wanted us to live. Caleb climbed up the bedroom stairs seeking


And could we reflect from the tears stained on his baby clothes, his grave with

ribbons and baby animals on top. Why couldn’t we go together?

He visits me in my dreams, I see him through my mental breakdowns

The mother saw him breath his last breath from the ER

I see him through my arrogance, the excuses I use to avoid my wife

I saw him through the toys at the grocery store, the park where he played soccer

The diploma he got from kindergarten, his first tooth weirdly stored in a memory


The baby pictures that haunt my mind with thoughts that cannot peer through the

thought of losing him again, and again, and again.

The fact that there's a stairway to heaven and a highway to hell explains life well.

The stairs lead to the higher rooms but I feel like I’m going to the basement.

The blinking lights of the antenna tower came into focus just as I heard a loud


I tell my wife we should try again

And she tears up the divorce papers I handed her

We know that Caleb wanted us to go up the stairs too

But he knows we have more things to do on the ground floor

We’ll come up when we’re ready Caleb. As a family.

How are you incorporating arts into your life during the pandemic?

Using my spiritual work as a compass for what's ahead.

My name is Noah Humphrey but I go by the stage name Knowa Know. I am in a Masters of Divinity Program at Yale but I'm studying remotely until the fall of this year. I recently graduated from Whittier College my B.A in Religious Studies and a minor in Holistic Care. Currently, I'm now based in Oahu, Hawaii but I use poetry as my second voice and I try to infuse my experiences in South Central; my African-American heritage; Neo spirituality, nature; and holistic elements into them. I let my soul speak through poetry and I believe that with peace, passion, patience, support, and God anything is possible through this path we call life IG: @knowaknow Mirakee: knowaknow Linktree

Congregational singing, churches, and the spread of COVID-19

Timothy Bench, Chaplain at the Hendrick Medical Center, Texas, USA

The very nature and environment of a typical church setting is, by definition, highly conducive to COVID-19 transmission. This is significant, and is not widely understood by many in our communities. In a typical church service, people numbering in the hundreds are in close quarters, sitting together and making physical contact for extended periods, where one infected person could unknowingly yet easily expose dozens of others to illness. Communion trays are passed up and down rows of people, and perhaps most risky in terms of the spread of the virus, members at churches sing for extended periods. All of these behaviors, either separate or combined, make churches an environment suitable for rapidly spreading COVID-19, as has been evidenced repeatedly throughout 2020 across America.

During a recent theology-related Facebook dialogue, several of us were discussing the potential lethality and dangers of churches fully reopening as the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be strengthening once again in Texas. One room member, “Bart,” stated “Yet there {sic} little to zero cases being reported stemming from all the rioting, looting, and protesting Hmmmmm!!” and “They (identity not specified) are doing everything possible to try and trying {sic} to shut down Christianity and this so-called virus has become the weapon against Christians.”

Bart’s suspicions are not uncommon. For many, restrictions on church gatherings via orders from the Governor or local Mayor’s office have become de facto “proof” of conspiracy theories at the city, state and even federal levels. If churches are required to mandate alternating rows to remain vacant, or that attendees wear masks, or alter communion practices, hysteria often seems to ensue, with accusations that churches are being “persecuted” or treated unfairly by unseen enemies and unknown forces. Thus, it seems to be of significant importance that the reasons (singing, specifically) that COVID-19 can be so easily transmitted in a church setting are considered and effectively conveyed to those who suspect some nefarious anti-church plot is afoot. It is likely that many, if not most, church leaders and congregations will at some point be forced to deal with a “Bart,” who may even suspect his local congregational leadership of being complicit with this alleged “persecution” of the church.

But are churches being singled out? What is the science behind the decisions being made about the risks associated with church gatherings? As noted in “As Businesses Reopen, Here Are Some of the Highest Risk Places for COVID-19” at

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned against attending gatherings of 10 or more people as a particular risk for COVID-19 transmission. Officials say that’s because these gatherings offer more opportunities to come in contact with a person who has the virus. These gatherings also are less likely to have proper physical distancing. Rock concerts and RELIGIOUS SERVICES (emphasis added) are among this group.” 1

Deemed “highest risk” in terms of disease exposure, the Centers for Disease Control also specifies “Large in-person gathers are held where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart…”2 The CDC also states that “The virus that causes COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people cough, sneeze, or talk…”,3 activities which would obviously be a frequent and ongoing potential threat in a church setting.

Perhaps the most convincing argument as to the dangers of COVID-19 exposure within churches comes from

“Why am I calling out churches? The answer is asymptomatic spread and aerosolization of the virus from singing. It’s been determined that this virus is much more infectious than the flu. National leaders are now saying 3 times as infectious, giving the epidemic a R0 of approximately 4. This probably requires other methods of transmission than from sneezing and coughing. And if approximately 50% of individuals catch this virus from asymptomatic carriers, one must ask, how are these carriers spreading the virus? They are not coughing and sneezing. The answer is probably aerosolization, were the virus can float in the air and be picked up later by an unsuspecting passerby. The virus has been observed to survive in an aerosol form for up to 3 hours. Thus, singing and church choirs may be the worst practice one can participate in.”4

There is, after all, perhaps no more common church activity, regardless of denominational designation, than singing. Emory University Epidemiologist Dr. Carlos del Rio states the following….

“I think chorus is a dangerous activity. I think we've shown in several studies in churches and other settings, that choruses are a place where a lot of transmission can occur…Because, if someone is infected, the way you sing, etc., transmission is very rapid.”5

The effects of extended singing within the confines of a church are specifically noted by Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth…

“Singing, to a greater degree than talking, aerosolizes respiratory droplets extraordinarily well…Deep-breathing while singing facilitated those respiratory droplets getting deep into the lungs. Two-and-a-half hours of exposure ensured that people were exposed to enough virus over a long enough period of time for infection to take place.”6

Could “singing” in a church setting actually be more potentially dangerous than merely talking? How much of a difference could there be? The difference, simply stated, is substantial. According to

“…the percentage of airborne droplet nuclei generated by singing is 6 times more than that emitted during normal talking and approximately equivalent to that released by coughing.”7

Further and more startling details appeared in “What COVID-19 Means for Singing in Church” by Robin J. Freeman and the Orthodox Church in America.

“…mounting evidence strongly suggests that singing significantly increases transmission of the disease. Scientists and medical professionals classify singing as a high-risk activity due to the manner in which singing encourages aerosol spread. This classification is not new; singing has long been known to increase the spread of airborne diseases such as tuberculosis. Singing (and even loud talking) has been shown to increase the amount of aerosol a person emits. Aerosol particles are light enough to remain suspended in the air for hours at a time, and can travel anywhere from three to twenty-seven feet from the “emitter.” When those aerosol particles carry COVID-19, they pose a serious risk for anyone unlucky enough to breathe them in. Singers are therefore considered “super-spreaders.””8

Finally, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, associate professor of epidemiology William Hanage states-

“….while some people may believe “that airborne transmission means droplets hanging in the air capable of infecting you many hours later, drifting down streets, through letter boxes and finding their way into homes everywhere,” that is not how aerosols work. Rather, the coronavirus appears to be most infectious when people are in prolonged contact at close range, especially indoors.”9

Church gatherings would certainly qualify as “prolonged contact at close range,” made even riskier with the addition of numbers of people singing.

The facts are obvious and unambiguous. Due to a variety of contributing factors, most notably singing, but also including personal interactions over an extended period of time enclosed quarters, churches can serve to be a deadly source for spreading the COVID-19 virus. Wisely, hundreds of towns and cities across the United States have enacted temporary restrictions on how churches operate and assemble in order to reduce the health threat to the public. Churches are not being “persecuted” unfairly any more than restaurants, gyms, schools, and bars currently are, all of which are encountering the same interim restrictive measures churches now face. We each have a moral and ethical duty to protect our fellow citizens and family members from potential harm, as much as is possible, and recognizing that churches are fodder for rampant disease transmission during this pandemic is of the utmost consequence. As community leaders, church leaders, and in many cases educators, we need to be able and equipped to convey to the public the specific reasons that churches might serve to actually spur COVID-19 growth, why other activities statistically do NOT pose similar levels of hazard, and how communities and congregations can best work together to help reduce COVID-19 threats.

1-“As Businesses Reopen, Here Are Some of the Highest Risk Places for COVID-19,” Christopher Curley, June 10, 2020,

2-“Considerations for Community-Based Organizations,”, updated June 15, 2020.

3- “Targeting COVID-19’s Spread” “Considerations for Community-Based Organizations,, June 15, 2020.

4-“Churches Could be the Deadliest Places in the COVID-19 Pandemic” by Kevin Kavanaugh,MD, April 3, 2020,

5- “As Churches Reopen, experts describe one activity as ‘dangerous’,” by Chenue Her, May 25, 2020, WXIA/11Alive News, Atlanta, GA.

6- “COVID-19 could mute church singing,” The Oklahoman, May 15, 2020.

7-“ Aerosol emission and superemission during human speech increase with voice loudness,” by Sima Asadi, Anthony S. Wexler, Christopher D. Cappa, Santiago Barreda, Nicole M. Bouvier & William D. Ristenpart, See also “Will COVID-19 silence singers until there’s a vaccine?,” by Deon J. Hampton, Cincinnati Enquirer, May 11, 2020.

8-“What COVID-19 Means for Singing in Church,” by Robin J. Freeman, May 19, 2020, Orthodox Church in America,

9- “Scientists warn about airborne coronavirus infection,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, July 6, 2020.

posted 2.10.2021

Conspiracy Theories and COVID-19

Timothy Bench, Texas, USA

As 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have unfolded, an astonishing array of conspiracy theories related to the virus have become foundational belief systems for millions of people across the United States. Some of the more prominent of these theories are that COVID-19 was developed as a “bio-weapon” in Wuhan, China by Hillary Clinton and Anthony Fauci, that vaccines for the virus are actually “deep state” plots involving Bill Gates and George Soros to implant “microchips” in the population, the COVID virus is actually “just the flu,” and that hospitals are categorizing ALL deaths (including those from car crashes and heart attacks) as COVID-related in order to acquire increased funding from the US government. Even wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID was an alleged government “plot” to promote “tyranny” and to “strip Americans of their freedoms.” All of these theories have been proven to be demonstrably false, but to a frighteningly large percentage of the United States, such beliefs are now commonplace.

Several friends of mine have become obsessed with such outlandish, and potentially dangerous falsehoods. A friend I have had since the fourth grade began a relentless barrage of Facebook messages to me in regard to Anthony Fauci’s complicity in the development of this virus, and repeatedly informed me that I was a “sheeple,” that I needed to “Wake up!,” and that I needed to do my own “research” on such matters, which are hidden of course from public view by the “liberal media.” I was told I was even “in on the deception of the public.” A minister informed myself and several others that the entire pandemic was “trumped up,” and that death totals provided by the CDC were an attempt to make the previous president “look bad.” A college acquaintance of mine became convinced that hydroxychloroquine was the antidote to the virus, and its “miraculous” medical effects were being concealed from public view by a cabal of nefarious world leaders, bent on the destruction of the American economy….I presented to this acquaintance multiple reports which refuted hydroxychloroquine as a treatment option, such as the public statement from the Yale School of Medicine (see “Statement from Yale Faculty on Hydroxychloroquine and its Use in COVID-19” by Greg Gonsalves, 8-4-2020), as well as from the National Institutes of Health (“Hydroxychloroquine doesn’t benefit hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” 11-24-2020,, and the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota (“Studies find no COVID benefit for preventive hydroxychloroquine or for convalescent plasma,” by Mary Van Beusekom, 11-25-2020, CIDRAP News). I was promptly told that I was “brain-washed” and that medical schools, even the likes of Yale, and medical journals “are not always right” and are “controlled by the deep-state.” Fox News and the “Epoch Times” are more “credible” than Yale, I was told. No amount of cited, documented, verified evidences from the likes of the Yale Medical School, the Yale School of Public Health, CIDRAP, the CDC, JAMA, the Lancet, Johns Hopkins, the FDA, or a host of other well-established sources can seemingly dissuade certain people from this line of thinking, and even attempting to do so is somehow tantamount to collaboration with these unseen forces which seek to “destroy civilization.”

My goal with this brief writing is to emphasize to future readers how prevalent and destructive conspiracy theories became during this pandemic. This is the first time that I have witnessed medical science actually become a source of mockery for many people, and it is greatly troubling…this was not, at least in my experience, the case with AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, nor with SARS or Ebola. One can only wonder how many people have refused to wear masks, for instance, and how many have ultimately contracted the virus due to these unfounded theories, and how many people have or will choose to not receive the vaccination. Most importantly, how many of the 450,000+ American lives (as of 2-5-2021) lost to this pandemic might have had a different outcome, if such rampant misinformation had not become entrenched in American culture and discourse.

posted 2.10.2021


Deanna Marie Giraldi, New York, USA

The COVID-19 outbreak was initially described by the United Nations health agency as an epidemic, an outbreak that had spread to many people, and many communities, at the same time. By labelling the spread a pandemic on March 11, 2020, the WHO acknowledged that the virus is now a worldwide phenomenon. The decisions also reflect the WHO's concern at what it calls the “alarming levels of the coronavirus spread, severity and inaction”, and the expectation that the number of cases, deaths and affected countries will continue to climb. Calling COVID-19 a pandemic does not mean that it has become more deadly, it is an acknowledgement of its global spread.

In terms of the average number of people infected by each sick person, COVID-19 has a transmission 1.5 to 3.5. This falls among seasonal flu, swine flu, SARS, tuberculosis. The difference comes in the case fatality rate where COVID-19 data shows that around 0.7% to 3.4% of those infected die. This is above the fatality rates of rotavirus, swine flu, chickenpox, and norovirus, but below the Spanish Flu, tuberculosis, SARS, Ebola, MERS, and polio.

COVID-19 has posed numerous challenges for healthcare systems, health care professionals, and individuals around the world. Global measures have targeted a crucial piece of pandemic response - flattening the infection curve of coronavirus around the world. Since healthcare system capacity is not up to par with the fatality rate, protective measures of individuals and governments play a crucial role in controlling this outbreak. On an individual level, hand washing campaigns and quarantining guidelines have been most important. Governments have set limits on large gatherings, begun to track infectees, and are working to provide access to widespread and fast testing.

In numerous ways, COVID has been a reminder of the need for public health professionals, national governments, and international organizations to protect and expand human rights. In China, the first wave of infections revealed that those ages 60+ were most at risk of dying from coronavirus. Those, of all ages, with existing conditions were disproportionately the cases that ended in death from coronavirus complications. Among those with existing conditions, those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, abnormally high blood pressure, and cancer showed elevated levels of death among coronavirus patients. This information suggests that the severity of infection with COVID-19 is associated with age, race, and underlying conditions. These are also common factors in generally vulnerable populations around the world, even beyond coronavirus.

As we experience the COVID-19 pandemic, let us not forget the crucial lessons we are learning along the way. Healthcare should be a human right. All people, especially vulnerable populations need access to free tests and treatment. Employees should be guaranteed paid leave so people can be socially responsible and isolate when sick. Student loan debt halts, mortgage moratoriums, and rent controls can be put in place. The United States government has the ability to reallocate funding to health care. People in so-called “menial jobs” should make living wages as grocery store, food service, child care, and janitors are “essential services” meaning that we need them to survive. It should not take a global pandemic for human rights to be realized and actualized.

Deanna Marie Giraldi is an MPH '21 Candidate at the Yale School of Public Health. She is pursuing her degree in health policy and the global health concentration.

Posted: 7.10.2020


Fontbonne Hall Academy, New York, USA

How are you incorporating arts into your life during the pandemic?

I am incorporating arts into my life during the pandemic by playing my drums and piano, and by writing songs for my band.

Artist statement: I'll always live by the quote: "When words fail, Music speaks"

Posted: 7.10.2020

Kimber Kristy

California, USA

I knew many healthcare workers, essential job workers, first responders, and others who were doing so much to help people during the pandemic, and I wanted to find a way to recognize them and thank them for their work. As a musician, I wrote and recorded a song titled “Hard Times” and created a video for the song in tribute to these people. The video plays “Hard Times,” the song I wrote, while featuring photos of over 70 COVID-19 heroes that I knew from 14 different states. The video also includes photos of signs, banners, flags, and artwork displayed in lawns, homes, and storefronts in appreciation for COVID-19 heroes. I released the video on YouTube on April 29, 2020. I shared the video with all of the COVID-19 heroes featured in the video, thanking them for their incredible work, and the video continues to be shared as a message of thanks and gratitude to those who are helping during this time. On May 6, 2020, The Guilford Courier, the newspaper from my hometown of Guilford, CT, interviewed me and named me Person of the Week, to share my story about how I wrote the song “Hard Times” and created the music video in tribute to COVID-19 heroes. Here is a link to the article. I hope that this video can continue to share a message of hope, positivity, and gratitude to everyone who has done something to help someone else during this extremely challenging time.

View my work:

Tribute to COVID-19 Heroes - "Hard Times" (Original Song):

Posted: 7.10.2020

How are you incorporating arts into your life during the pandemic?
As a musician, writing and recording this song has given me a positive venue to be able to thank people during COVID-19. I am so appreciative that I have been able to use my music to recognize and thank all heroes of COVID-19.

Kimber Kristy is a musician, singer, and songwriter from Guilford, Connecticut, who is now based out of Los Angeles. Kimber recently graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she studied vocal performance, songwriting, and music business. While she continues to write and record her own music, she also now works for the Recording Academy at the GRAMMY Museum L.A. LIVE in Public Programs & Artist Relations, facilitating intimate concerts and conversations with artists such as Billie Eilish, Andrea Bocelli, the Jonas Brothers, and many others.

Sandy Smyth

Florida, USA

Postface, added June 2020 to my book, SIMPLIFIED LITURGIES FOR CONTEMPLATIVE WORSHIP, by Sandy Smyth © 2019, Xulon Press.

Postface: Adapting the Order of Service for Online Worship

Enter Virtual Church which evolved out of the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 as church doors all over the world closed down. A whole new way of worship opened up for those lost sheep who had strayed from the main church or who were not able to attend physically.

Remember that the lost sheep are not the ones showing up in physical church buildings every Sunday morning. They are scattered all over the world, some hidden away, others too infirm to travel to attend church, still others who are isolated by fear. All craving to be loved and to know a God who loves them unconditionally.

The coronavirus pandemic closed down the churches along with everything else and people had to stay home to prevent the spread of it. Churches quickly, and some awkwardly, had to adjust to stream services online to satisfy their Sunday morning congregations. Virtual church was born out of the necessity to reach isolated congregants and is here to stay.

What connects us to the church now, since the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 that shut us in for several months, is the digital age. Not since the invention of the printing press, that changed how we receive information, has the human family connected more universally via I Phones, Tablets and I Pads, Computers, Youtube videos, Instagram, Twitter and Zoom channels.

For a while we have seen people sitting across from one another communicating by phone and thought it silly! Now with social distancing restrictions it may be the new normal!
The digital age is the new normal for many, even as we resume attending church in person, go out shopping, dining and gathering socially. But will the brick and mortar church survive the new normal with in person attendance at an all time low yet with dramatic increases in attendance with online viewing?

According to a June 4th 2020 blog by Gene Veith, titled, The Newest Church Growth Paradigm: Digital Church, Veith says that,

“The [coronavirus] epidemic [of 2020] has forced churches to resort to online services. But now some church growth experts are hailing that problem as a new paradigm for “doing church.” Church growth expert, Carey Nieuwhof, also advocates “digital” church…In his post The Original 2020 Is History… Rev. Nieuwhof sees “digital church,” rather than just “physical church” as the wave of the future.

Digital technology, he says, will accelerate the trend we are already seeing in the “consolidation” of the church, as smaller congregations close in favor of fewer but bigger megachurches. And yet, Rev. Nieuwhof says, “The physical churches will not disappear… Growing churches in the future will become digital organizations with physical expressions, not physical organizations with a digital presence… Online church transcends geographic, physical and time barriers in a way that analog doesn’t…Will we still have in-person, physical gatherings and services? Absolutely. But in the future church, if you care about people, you’ll care about digital church.”

Consider the other implications of digital church. Certainly, the technology can engage more people, with the need for fewer pastors, at a smaller expense, without even the need for large megachurch facilities and campuses. Since a digital church “transcends geographic, physical and time barriers,” we won’t need as many of them. We will need few, if any, pastors. It won’t even be necessary to plan a new service or a new sermon every week. A library of different sermon topics and musical performances can be put together, and viewers can just click which ever one they are in the mood for at any given time.

A fully digitized church will bear the same relationship to the actual church–against which the Gates of Hell will not prevail–that virtual reality bears to actual reality.” [end of article by Veith].

Topics for Worship

Wow! I happen to love the digital age because I am a digital artist. As a graduate of Yale Divinity School, with a Master of Arts in Religion, digital ministry is the calling I never expected. But here we are.

After this Postface, I am adding scripts for the following under 20-minute Youtube Contemplative Worship Services which are shorter versions of the order of service provided in this book.

Topics for worship include a Lenten Service, a Grief and Loss Service, a Healing Service, a Service of Thanksgiving, a Service Remembering those who have Died, a shortened Creation-centered Service, a Service for Justice and Peace, and yes, even a Service Remembering the Holy Eucharist usually administered by the ordained!

I feel sure you will be led by the Holy Spirit in this time of digitally modernizing the main church. I believe this is Holy and creative work, and the church will grow with the technology. I am grateful to be at the leading edge of this new ministry.

View my work:

How are you incorporating arts into your life during the pandemic?

I am incorporating worship arts into my Youtube videos.

Artist statement

On my iPad Pro, I love to create Fine Digital Art to beautify the Home. My colorful paintings, mostly nature subjects (fish, birds, plants, animals, people), are printed on aluminum that can be placed indoors or outdoors. As a Naples Digital Artist (debuted, "Women in Art and Poetry," June 6. 2018 at East-West Fine Art, Bigham Galleria, Naples, Florida) and with an Art and Design background, I offer interior designers and their clients: Original Custom Abstract Art, printed on aluminum by Hitek Imaging in Naples, in any size single piece up to 40 x 60, and 70 wide. See My education is a B.A. (1966) in Art from Elmira College, N.Y., a Master of Arts in Religion (2010) from Yale University, Divinity School, and a M.A.R.S. (1999) from Sacred Heart University, CT. For me, creativity is a spiritual practice. My paintings are a gift resulting from time in Contemplation. My books about Art and Spirituality are available at Search by my author's name, Sandy Smyth.

Sandy Smyth, 'MAR 2010 - Episcopal church, Yale Divinity School, Iona community affiliate member.

Posted: 7.10.2020

Jose Luis Gonzalez, BA '77

California, USA

Suddenly, we were elderly and at risk.

Sure, my spouse Victoria and I weren’t, as the saying goes, “spring chickens”. But we
were healthy and active.

The year 2020 was going to mark many milestones—my turning 65 and retiring, her
turning 70, our being married 30 years, our daughter Sofia turning 30. Planned
celebrations of all these collective and individual milestones were all postponed or
cancelled effective March 12—the day we started to shelter in place (or SIP) and the
world of northern California changed.

We religiously SIPed during the early days—our food was delivered, only one of us
ventured to a local market, and we didn’t socialize with anyone. Our morning exercise
routines—daily walks for Victoria and bicycle rides for me—ceased. We self-isolated,
together. More recently, we’ve adapted and ventured out together for provisions and or
physically distanced socializing.

Even now (in June 2020) the days are filled with reading (The Afterlife, Julia Alvarez),
“puzzling”, listening to music (the Beatles catalog, classic R&B), and baking. Even
Zoomed a virtual Yale 43rd reunion with classmates some of whom I had not seen since

And, making—it dawned on us early in SIP that we needed to make something to
express what we were feeling during SIP. Sofia is an artist and a maker; Victoria is a
quilter; and, that inspired me to start a journal quilt to highlight what was on our minds
and in our hearts during SIP— the safety and sanctuary of homes; spending time alone
together, often in the backyard enjoying the birds in the new quiet that surrounded our
home; looking forward to future holidays with family and friends; washing our hands
(constantly); making and donating masks to hospitals; wearing masks when out and
about; and the surreal paucity of toilet paper. Finally, we salute the health care providers
(including our son-in-law, Dominic Picetti MD) for taking care of all of us.

The journal quilt was my first; I don’t think it will be my last. And, for that, I thank

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Posted: 7.10.2020

Taking a COVID-19 Test No Big Deal

Marcia Heller, California, USA

So you want to get tested for COVID-19? Yes, that test — the one that uses the dreaded foot-long (not really) nasal swab.

The Santa Barbara County Health Department is asking everyone in the county to get tested, whether or not you have symptoms. My husband registered for a test so, not wanting to feel like a wimp, I did, too.

Also, it was a good excuse to get out of the house for a little while.

Here’s the drill for getting tested in the city of Santa Barbara: How to sign up, where to go for the test, and what to expect when you get there.

To sign up: Go online. Follow the instructions, answer all the questions, complete the required registration forms, and set up a time for your test. You will receive several emails from LHI (the testing company) to confirm your appointment and, most importantly, to give you a patient ID number. You will need that number when you arrive at the test site; without your ID number, you will not get a test.

I put my ID number in the notes section of my phone, so I could find it quickly without having to go searching through my emails. That said, the ID number is pretty much all you will need to bring along, other than a mask to wear before and after the test.

Where to go: Earl Warren Showgrounds. The tests in Santa Barbara are administered inside a building at Earl Warren. It is not a drive-by test like we’ve all seen in most of the photos of people being swabbed while leaning their heads back in the front seat of their cars.

When you enter the showgrounds from Las Positas, a sign will point you to the correct building; it is the dome-shaped one immediately on the right. Park wherever you like.
A security person will greet you at the entrance and ask if you have your patient ID number. Say yes and he/she will walk you in the door.

The cavernous space that’s usually reserved for big events like the annual home and garden show, wedding fair, sea glass and antique shows is eerily empty.

To your immediate right are two people, wearing long disposable maroon gowns and N-95 or other medical masks, sitting at a table behind what looks like a clear shower curtain. They will ask for your ID number; which they will look up to confirm your appointment.

On of them will pull out a test kit and walk you over to another spot next to a small curtain where you’ll be asked to stand while waiting to be called for your test.

On the other side of the curtain is where the test will take place. It’s not a long wait. It seems only a couple of people are scheduled to even be in the building at the same time.
Test time: The test-taker will call you in and have you sit in a white plastic lawn chair that has been disinfected from the previous patient. She’ll ask for your birth date, hand you a tissue (I brought my own), tell you to lean your head back, and then insert the long swab into one of your nostrils.

It seemed like the procedure lasted a long time, but I think it takes only about 15 seconds. It’s actually not that big of a deal.

On a discomfort scale of 1 to 5, if a flu shot is a 1 and a colonoscopy a 5, I’d rank the COVID-19 nasal swab test at about 2.5.

So there you have it. Test done; easy-peasy.

The worst part was waiting for the results. Fortunately, mine came back negative!

Artist Bio: I am a copy editor for Noozhawk, a daily online newspaper in Santa Barbara, Calif.

This originally ran in Noozhawk.

Posted: 7.10.2020


NEC, California, USA

It is a very sobering time and though there is much suffering going on in the world right now, I feel very privileged in that I am sheltering in my house and fortunate to have a nice backyard to sit in. However, in thinking about these unusual times one of the hardest parts for me personally is not being able to see my family and friends and give them a hug. The social distancing and isolation is tough. And also, not being able to go anywhere is incredibly confining. I have been home for more than nine weeks now and only ventured out to drive to an open space area to walk a few times a week. When out walking wearing a mask one feels very anonymous and it is a very unfriendly way of being in the world. My smile is hidden and so are others so it is easier to just look down and pass by. If I walk in my neighborhood I try to go around 6:30 am so as to encounter as few people as possible. Now instead of watching for cars I watch for people and cross the street if I see one coming on my side. I am a pretty social person and it hurts not to make eye contact or exchange pleasantries.

How are you incorporating arts into your life during the pandemic?

I am a potter so I am working with clay. Some days I find it very hard to get motivated to do my artwork but other days I find it the perfect escape.

posted 5.22.2020

Covid College: Films from Yale University’s Documentary Filmmaking Workshop

Anonymous, New York, NY

The following link contains short documentaries films made in Sandra Luckow's Introductory and Intermediate Filmmaking Workshop during the Spring semester of 2020. The classes began in residence, but evacuation of the campus and online instruction was announced at the end of the first week of Spring Break in March. Although students had already been learning motion picture camera techniques on smartphones in the classes, their project proposals had to dramatically pivot. The Covid 19 crisis inspired some of the most personal, authentic and quality work that the classes have ever seen.

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Posted 5.22.2020

[Opinion] Quarantined in NYC, I rediscover my motherland and safe haven: Sri Lanka

Tasmeen Shiny Weerakoon, New York, NY, YSPH ‘19

Biography: Sri Lankan, public health professional living in NYC

Artist Statement: Writing this piece on Sri Lanka's response to COVID-19 was cathartic; I channeled my anxiety of caring for family both in Sri Lanka and in NYC, to these words. I hope that the last section of this piece offers an opportunity to question what we want our societies to look like post-pandemic, especially with regards to Universal Health Care and strengthening the national healthcare system; if nothing else, COVID-19 has shown us that an economy is only as strong as the health of its people.

Posted: 5.22.2020


Lisa Dubrow, New York, USA

What does it feel like to have your only daughter feel like a potentially dangerous weapon? What does it feel like to feel like you might be equally dangerous to your daughter? Covid 19 provided the sad answer. I had quarantined over 14 days after an international trip. I had not seen my daughter for well over two months. We wanted to see each other and decided that since she could travel via her own car from New Haven, she would visit me on a Sunday in my apt in NYC. I was not sure how I felt about a visit. I was nervous. She arrived and the nervousness settled in like a wave. I was afraid to hug her, and the social distance and masks just felt overwhelmingly sad. It prevented a closeness even in our discussions of what we had been up to and how we felt and any topics we broached. I sat apart from her and her partner, served them lunch but did not share the meal as it would have entailed my taking off my mask and I was afraid. She left after an hour or so because frankly the masks were irritating our faces and the relief or intimacy we hoped we would feel in closer quarters, as opposed to via computer contact, felt useless. What we wanted was physical closeness and the fear of contracting or transmitting the disease simply overrode most of the pleasure in the visit. I was glad to have seen her; as a mother there is nothing like the face to face to know if your kid is fundamentally ok - but it was the hardest visit I have ever experienced. I was literally brought to my knees with grief. Two months have gone by and we will try again. We are now used to wearing masks and have sewn cloth ones that are less irritating. I still will not hug or be hugged but I hope that our visit in a few weeks will feel better than the last one. After all it is all we have right now. We might go for a walk together, notwithstanding how hard it is to social distance while walking in NYC. I am left with the question of when we will hug each other again. Or hug without fear. I do not know the answer but it is breaking my heart.

How are you incorporating arts into your life during the pandemic?

I am watching theater, music and dance regularly and contributing whenever I do. It is a time to try to bring a semblance of "normality" to my life where I participated as an audience member in performing arts of all kinds. I pray that many theaters will manage to stay alive. I have no idea when I will feel safe to actually go to a theater but when I do I will!!

Posted: 5.22.2020


Anonymous, Crown Heights Mutual Aid
A couple weeks into the NY shutdown, someone whose first initial is A joined our mutual aid Slack in Brooklyn and posted asking for work...any work, whether it was housekeeping or elderly care. She'd lost her job due to the pandemic. About a week later, someone else, J, joined asking for donations as he and his wife were both out of work and had to care for their young child. Over a few days it became clear that his wife was none other than A, and the pair of them became more and more involved in the volunteer work, contributing where they could, while still asking for some work or funds here and there. Mother's Day was approaching, and A posted again asking for funds, food donations, or volunteers, as she was organizing a party for the mothers and women in the shelter that she was staying at. She posted receipts and photos of food donated, gifts purchased, etc. Some of the messages were timestamped at 5am on Sunday, Mother's Day. This woman and her husband, who were struggling themselves, were laboring through the night in order to create an atmosphere of happiness, celebration, and hopefully normalcy for others in these uncertain times. They had written multiple times that they were willing to work for every dollar they earned, but they were really going above and beyond in a time when those who should be leading and protecting the public are failing spectacularly. They are the truest example of mutual aid that I have seen in the group so far, and their generosity should not go unmentioned.
Posted: 5.22.2020

Visual Art

Amanda Russel, Oregon, USA

How are you incorporating arts into your life during the pandemic?

As a freelance illustrator, there are days where I have to make art because it is one of my jobs. However, I have been working on a lot of art on my own time in response to the events of the pandemic because I process a lot through artmaking. Having to stay at home and shelter in place has given me both ample extra time to create, and no shortage of inspiration. This whole experience has been one of the clearest times I can remember where something has happened, I've experienced something or been a part of something, and I immediately knew "I have to make art about this." There was never any question in my mind.

Artist Bio:
Amanda Russel is a painter, illustrator, and embroidery artist living and working in Portland, Oregon. She specializes in figurative work and portraits, and works in watercolor, gouache, acrylic, mixed media, inkwash, ink pen, and digitally.
Art Information: "Tomatoes." 8.5"x11", digital. 2020.
Artist Statement: This piece is one from a larger ongoing series made under quarantine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The seasons and landscape continue predictably changing, but with the emergence of this illness, familiar scenery and changing seasons have an underlying uneasiness and uncanniness. These feelings are evoked through illustrative imagery of plants, fruits and flowers, entwined with coronavirus particles; the familiar and the new and unknown struggling to coexist in this strange new world we are all building together.
Posted: 5.22.2020


Ansel Oommen, MLS(ASCP), New York, USA

We are not immune as we once believed

We are not immune to business as usual
When business has always been busy
Prescribing profits over prudence
With false prophecies of golden years

We are not immune to the viral strains
Of rabid voices coughing up empty words
Ever mutating sense into missense
Each echo more feral than before

We are not immune to the dissemination of lies
Aerosolized and transmitted as truth
For even with repeat exposure
We still react to what was never foreign

We are not immune to the poisons of privilege
As we amputate left to save what is right
As we amputate right to save what is left
When instead, the diagnosis was truly systemic

We are not immune to being the greatest
When we fill our graveyards to be the least

As we reach the end stage of life as we know it
While we await a vaccine for all our ills
Let us remember:
The disease was always within ourselves

The pandemic was just a symptom.

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Ansel Oommen is a medical technologist working in clinical microbiology. Since the NYC outbreak began, he has been conducting the various SARS-CoV-2 PCR tests on hundreds of patient samples to aid in the diagnosis of COVID-19. The poem Autoimmunity was a response to the final prompt from WNYC Radio during the last week of April (in the spirit of National Poetry Month 2020) on lessons learned from living through the pandemic.

Posted: 4.5.2020


Dr. Jill Mellick, Palo Alto, California, USA

Abstract, two pigments on paper. Possession of the artist. Two pigments at a time on small paper are all I can use now; I have a fused neck and Stage IV cancer. Limits give birth to unprecedented interactions. Each pairing of pigments interacts uniquely. Miniscule changes in pigment-to-water ratio alter the whole; humidity changes interactions, second-by-second. I’ve sheltered in place since 2017; my body is immunosuppressed. As in life, so in my art: I must work with what I have; so, I work with the pigments. I cannot determine outcome. These two pigments in Web (image linked below) interpenetrate. Neither subsumes the other. Their unique interaction holds the tension of opposites for me: they are a microcosm of the tsunami power of the pandemic with its capricious volte-faces* as well as an homage to our fragile, indestructible, intricate interconnectedness regardless of circumstance.
*Volte-face (French): an act of turning around so as to face in the opposite direction; an abrupt and complete reversal of attitude, opinion, or position (Oxford).

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How are you incorporating arts into your life during the pandemic?

I have established three Facebook pages, each with a different purpose: Beauty in my Shelter is a public site and has over 500 participants in a month and is dedicated to helping individuals share the beauty that is right below their noses. Passing Beauty has over 400 participants by invitation from a member and has been extant since 2017 when I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It celebrates the unusual beauty that links us, rather than focusing on my own terminal illness. I experience beauty more keenly; I want that to be what links us. Community Underground is designed to let people post constructive ways that they are finding or have within their communities for supporting each other physically, emotionally, creatively, spiritually, intellectually, and communally. On a personal level, I commit weekly to playing my grand piano, experimenting with art within my limited physical capacity, writing and editing poetry, writing fiction, revisiting some of my archive of over 130,000 images I've taken over the years, visiting museum websites and YouTube demonstrations, reading books that have long awaited my attention, and burrowing into my library. Because I need constant help, my helpers and I "visit" a different culture every two weeks. We've "been" to Greece, France, and Japan. I post floating screensaver shows on the television for them and me, music from the country, order special food treats from the country, and often a tiny gift from the country.

Dr. Jill Mellick, Professor Emerita, is a clinical psychologist, artist, and author, most recently of The Red Book Hours: Discovering CG Jung's Mediums & Creative Process (Scheidegger & Spiess, 2018).

Posted: 4.5.2020


S2 | dept. 8 — unaccomplished conceptual artist. stay-at-home vagrant, California, USA

Before the pandemic, I created an ongoing visual diary designed to chronicle the experience of living under the corrupt and dangerous american regime. Due to the nature of the president, and reflecting his histrionic meanderings of policy, prejudice and corruption, I decided the ideal canvas for this project would be a onesie, the ubiquitous garment familiar to anyone who has cared for an infant. On each onesie I would couple text and a graphic image in the style of contemporary commercial products available to the global consumer class. I employed quotes from the president, words extracted from his twitter feed, and other phrases found in the public domain. The graphics associated with the text were meant to illustrate, undermine, enlighten, amplify or make light of the chosen text. All images are harvested from the internet as part of the ongoing effort to record the moment in which we found ourselves. This project, “La infantil,” found its conclusion and I moved on. However, the pandemic revived the flow of ideas, and I have created two series of 19 onesies each to reflect and remember the months of lockdown in which we find ourselves. I am working on a third COVID series, but I do not know how many more series this experience will inspire/require.

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Posted: 4.5.2020