In, beyond Waldo: silver linings on Easter


One of my favorite parts of a recent virtual church service was a challenge to find the silver linings that are a part of our shared, global predicament.

That seems especially relevant during the Easter season, when the story of resurrection comes only after profound pain and sorrow.

What good – for yourself, family, neighborhood, community or world – are you doing or experiencing because of boundaries or losses that coronavirus concerns have forced upon you? What opportunities have appeared?

When I asked about silver linings on Facebook, friends were quick to weigh in. For example:

“I find myself being grateful that I am healthy and that the rain has stopped so I can go for my afternoon walk.”

“Grateful for warm, sunny days here in New Orleans, spending time with my daughter. It may be the new epicenter, but City Park is just a couple of blocks away and a great place to walk with very few people along the way.”

“Grateful for my huge yarn stash – I will never be bored. Plus, grateful to the medical people who work tirelessly to keep us safe. I wrote six letters to various types of medical staff … sending them to the patient relations department. I hope they will be placed on a bulletin board someplace.”

“I am grateful for Google Hangouts and the app Euchre 3D. Had a wonderful time with family on the West Coast that I was planning to visit. I think our love for each other filled us all.”

“I am grateful for video chats with my new grandbaby (can’t wait to snuggle with her again).”

“I am grateful every day that we have enough to sustain our family for the duration. Praying for those families that aren’t so lucky.”

“Grateful for my family and dog, and Disney Plus.”

“I’m grateful for gin-and-tonics and the art class I’m taking online.”

“My family is safe.”

“Grateful that I live indoors.”

And me? I am thankful for the gift of time and fewer things competing for it. It may sound silly, but I like thinking about what to make for dinner in the morning, instead of waiting until 7 or 8 p.m. because I’m too busy. That’s just one example of how I believe time is on my side.

Altars, in Christianity, are where bread and wine are consecrated for the sharing of communion. In other faith traditions, the altar is an area for sacrifices or offerings – and I’ll argue that such a tabletop also can be a comfortable representation of what you cherish most in this world.

We already fill our homes with these reminders: framed family photos, crafts made by a loved one, symbols of personal achievement, thoughtful gifts from people still here or gone, in a physical sense.

Although we can’t sit together in a church with one altar before us on Easter this year, we each can assemble an altar of mindful respect for what matters. Start with a rosary, a candle, a flower, other symbol of nature – whatever represents something bigger than all of us, however you define it – and add items that are unique reminders of what or who has enriched your life so far.

Then what? Sing a hymn. Sit in silence. Swap stories. Swig a beer. Remember. Rejoice. There is no singular answer. Do whatever you need – for a few minutes or hours – to make it feel like a special day.

Last, my friend Fran Weineke in Sheboygan shared her wish that drive-in movie theaters (we fewer than 10 left in Wisconsin) turn into temporary churches on Sundays, so people would have a way to safely gather yet connect during this most unusual time of isolation.

I tried calling a couple and got recordings with no voice mail option. Most reopen in another month, and I’ll predict a prosperous season for each of them. They include:

Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theater, Wisconsin Dells,

Chilton Twilight Outdoor Theater, Chilton,

Field of Scenes Outdoor Theater, Freedom,

Highway 18 Outdoor Theater, Jefferson,

Moonlight Outdoor Theater, Shawano,

Sky Vu Drive In Movie Theatre, Monroe,

Skyway Drive-In Theater, Fish Creek,

Starview Drive In Movie Theater, Chetek,

During its peak, Wisconsin was home to six times as many drive-in theaters, asserts

For sale: Starlite 14 Drive-In, Richland Center. Anybody smell a timely business opportunity?

In the meantime, a few churches – big and small – are buying or loaning FM transmitters and conducting parking lot worship services for Easter, and perhaps beyond.

That includes Trinity United Methodist in Waldo, population 500 and 45 miles north of Milwaukee. The test drive was Palm Sunday, when congregants drove under the church carport to receive a little bag with fixin’s for communion (a sip of grape juice in a lidded cup, morsel of bread in a sandwich bag), then park in a semicircle, facing the church.

The Rev. Denise Kwiatkowski’s service was heard over a low car radios on a low-frequency FM channel. “We are celebrating Jesus in an unorthodox way,” she acknowledged, and that will be repeated on Easter.