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I have grown African Violets now and again for decades. The last time I stopped was because they became too much work, with way too many African Violets. Some of my discouragement came with a bug called thrips. I could never figure out how to completely get rid of them. When I started back into African Violets two and a half years ago, I determined I wouldn’t have too many this time. I limited myself to thirty-six African Violets (yeah, I never think in small numbers), and hoped the thrips wouldn’t find me.

I now have sixty-four African Violets, and have been trying to get rid of the thrips (don’t tell people this out of context) for the past year. It’s been embarrassing how over-grown my Violets have gotten. I haven’t wanted anyone looking at them, which is hard since they are in the front living-room. I have done some work on them, but with my traveling schedule, I could never catch up. Then Covid-19 happened. I still work long hours during the day via my computer, but I’ve been experiencing the blessing of having evenings at home. My African Violets are thriving!

It’s clear to me I’ve increased the level of care of my African Violets, and it’s making a difference! I have re-potted all of them (this should be done at least once or twice a year) and separated out new plants (there should only be one “crown” for most varieties). Watering has been more consistent, and I’ve done a good job of removing dead blooms and leaves. I’ve even made a new effort of getting rid of the thrips! I researched, and bought, a different spray. Then I took the step I have been avoiding. I removed all blooms and buds to make it harder for the thrips to hide. Then I sprayed all of the African Violets (and a few other plants) at one time. This seems to be a much more powerful spray than I have been using. I’m hopeful this will work!

Anyone else notice an increase in the level of care in communities during this Covid-19 pandemic? Neighbors are watching out for each other more. Strangers are making masks, and sharing items people need (even, on occasion, toilet paper). On Sunday I saw someone post in a community Facebook group their Father died, and they wondered if anyone would give them some hand-sanitizer for the plane-ride home as they flew cross-country. There were multiple offers of hand-sanitizer, and someone had a mask for them. All these offers were for free. There was also a lot of sympathy shared. I don’t believe community concern is new, though I think the level is quite high right now. How is this level of concern changing our communities?

This increased level of care is very evident in our churches. I’m getting reports from churches which includes every member getting phone calls each week checking on them. Masks made for church members, and for community members. Bed-time stories read on Facebook. Worship services customized for each community using radio stations, ZOOM, YouTube, and Facebook Live. Evening check-ins on Facebook. The question “Would you like the pastor to contact you” being asked, and followed-up on, every week. Written copies of the sermon being provided when needed. Prayer requests gathered, and shared, in a variety of ways. Weekly ZOOM classes. This is just a glimpse of the creativity of our churches! How will this increased level of care impact who we are as the United Methodist Church?

As good as my African Violets look right now, if I go back to my old schedule and priorities, they will not receive the level of attention they need. As neighbors, and as the church, will we go back to our previous busy schedules and priorities when this pandemic is over? Are there any parts of this “different way of being community, and being the church” we would like to keep? If the answer is yes, it will not just happen. We will have to be very intentional about changing priorities and adjusting our schedules. More people are struggling at the same time during this Covid-19 pandemic, but in all times, there are people struggling. Will our level of care continue to be high enough to notice people in their private battles?

Your brother on the journey, Mark

Further thoughts: I have been thinking about what our virtual worship services will look like when this pandemic is over. Will we mostly go back to live-streaming our in-person worship services, or will we continue to customize virtual services? We have put a lot of effort into our virtual worship services since we can’t use our buildings. How much effort will we put into them when we transition back to being “within the walls”?

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