Aug. 30, 2020

Dear All,

One of my colleagues from Wisconsin shared her notes for this week with me. I share them with you because my cat, Elvis, plays a role and it is such a great message. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. – Pastor Sharon

By Rev Moira Finley, pastor & teacher, United Church of Christ., Wisconsin

Friends, welcome to worship for Sunday August 30, 2020.

There’s a Facebook group called “Clergy with Cats” which is, as you might imagine, a bunch of clergy from around the world who all have cats. We share cat pictures, and stories, and adventures. There are tiny kittens being born, strays being taken in, teenage cats growing up, adult cats who show us how to be goofy and dignified at the same time, and senior cats who remind us that love has no age limit. The group has truly been a saving grace for me during these months, folks who know what my work is like, and who share their furry friends with wild abandon.

One of the kittens on the page (FYI, I call all cats kittens regardless of their age), is called Elvis. He is a beautiful orange and white striped fluffy cat and his human mom, Sharon, writes for him because cats prefer to have secretaries, and well, they lack thumbs. Elvis has, for these months and months of dealing with COVID, been struggling because he can’t go on tour to share his music with folks, and because Sharon won’t let the band come over to practice at their house. Elvis, frustrated, has taken to calling it the pan-damn-it and I think it’s my favorite new word.

Pandamnit! I think that’s where a lot of us are at. Frustrated with everything COVID, with the questions about what we can and can’t or should and shouldn’t do; with the making of this virus, a public health issue, into a political issue that pits us against them (whoever they may be); with cancelled, postponed, rescheduled, and again rescheduled plans; with the uncertainty of if, when, how all this will resolve, or if this will be how it is forever.

One of the things Elvis, and the other clergy kittens have taught me is that we have to learn to laugh even as we struggle with all the other feelings about COVID, and the situation in our country and the world. We have to find, in the middle of the grief, and uncertainty, and fear, and partisanship a way to smile, giggle, laugh, and let a little lightheartedness into our lives.

For my part, I’m going to start using Pandamnit more often because it gives me something to say when there’s nothing else to say. And I’ve started calling hand sanitizer “safety sauce” because it makes me smile, and I bought some plain black masks to decorate with fabric markers because since I have to wear one it might as well be fashionably fun, and I think I’ll go back and watch some of my favorite cartoons since I have a Disney+ subscription service.

The laughter isn’t an ignoring of the struggles we’re facing (more on that in a bit), or wide-eyed optimism that ignores the pain. Instead, it’s a recognition that we need ways to cope that aren’t harmful to our bodies or souls, ways to remember that we can make it through this. As long as our laughter isn’t at someone’s expense, isn’t making fun of other people, and doesn’t demean a group of people, then laughter can be one of our most important healing tools. So, let’s hear your best knock-knock jokes and your most groan inducing puns. Get out that book of Mad Libs and make up a story, invent a new word like pandamnit every week or put on your silliest outfit when you go to the grocery store (you needed a reason to wear a crayon costume more than at Halloween!). Let’s all try in the weeks and months ahead to laugh, together, and not let COVID or anything else we’re facing cancel our sense of humor.