PPE—Paul’s Pandemic Egg-bake

Zachary in the kitchen whisking up some eggs for Paul’s Pandemic Egg-bake.

I call it PPE—Paul’s Pandemic Egg-bake—and it has become a regular part of the Sunday morning routine in the Peters Derry household. PPE helps answer the question, “What makes this day different?” and provides both a therapeutic and even spiritual practice that refreshes and renews me for another week.

I start with getting our son Zachary to mix up some eggs. Zachary has special needs related to Down Syndrome, and with his regular day program on hiatus for over a year now, he’s eager (and so are his parents) for some regular routine activities. I start chopping some veggies (onions, peppers, mushrooms, perhaps some black olives). Then, along with whatever else I might find in the refrigerator (maybe some bacon, ham, or something else), I sauté these ingredients and arrange them in a large rectangular Pyrex dish.  Finally, I pour the egg-and-milk mixture over the veggies, pop it in the oven, and in roughly an hour, brunch is served!

Paul’s Pandemic Egg-bake has become such an integral part of our Sunday mornings, that when things ever get back to normal, I’m not sure I will want to let go of the new family tradition.
COVID-19 has made so much of our lives more cumbersome, affecting our individual, communal, and professional life. It has impacted even the simplest of activities within my work as a spiritual health practitioner and supervisor-educator of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) learners in the hospital context. Similarly, in November 2018, when I began to discern a vocational shift from ordained ministry within the United Church context, to exercising ministry within the Anglican Communion— most specifically, within our Diocese of Rupert’s Land—I couldn’t have imagined that plans for ordination to the transitional diaconate would be complicated by considerations for physical distancing or figuring out some hybrid of in-person/virtual format. Despite having received my COVID vaccination early, as a front-line healthcare worker, I still feel a need to be exceedingly cautious about in-person gatherings, and similarly about walking into Home Depot.

“PPE,” fresh from the oven on a Sunday morning.

In Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (2016), Diane Butler Bass remembers the opening day at a church revitalization conference where she was the keynote speaker. The day began with an exercise of centering prayer, but for Bass, it just did not work. Bass explains, “As the priest tried to center us in prayer, I wondered if we instead needed to be de-centered, to be more realistic about the current state of affairs and imagine what possibilities God might have for us.”

Those words offer remarkable resonance for living through the predictable unpredictability of a global pandemic.

As I consider the possibilities God might have in store for us, and look back over the past year, part of what continues to help me cope is paying attention to my own anxieties. I attend to that stab of anxiety as I drive by the Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) location turned into a drive-through COVID-19 testing centre. Likewise, I recognize that even though the Reh-Fit Centre is an exceptionally fine, clean, and safe fitness location, I was not ready to venture back last summer, and that is okay. Instead, I did cardio workouts by cycling to work along the new Rapid Transit active transportation path. Then, last fall, as temperatures began to plummet, I invested in an Indo-Rower—a rowing machine that requires you to pull against a paddle located in a larger cylinder of water.  I am an unabashed and unapologetic extrovert, and I do miss my exercise buddies. That said, working out to an audio version of Barack Obama’s A Promised Land or Michelle Obama’s Becoming, or even the saint benedict’s table podcast is pretty fine nonetheless.

It is also important for us to acknowledge the changes, griefs, limitations, and losses.  Each of these is real, tangible, and undeniable.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been standard operating practice for over a year now. Most of the time, I admit that I have found it to be astonishingly beside the point in the practice of spiritual care (though not always). At the end of a workday, I will sometimes feel that my eyes are more tired than they used to be, perhaps owing to increased empathetic communication with the part of my face that is not masked.

Indeed, I am increasingly mindful of how the world we inhabit is a trackless, hostile wilderness,” to borrow a phrase from another one of my favourite prayers.  It is a prayer by Glen E. Rainsley and found in The United Church of Christ (USA) Book of Worship (1986). And it is with gratitude for grace and mercy, and with hope in the unfolding of God’s promises—even and especially during these times—that I conclude with these words:

O God of love,
we are wayfarers in the world,
prone to erratic changes of course, to losing sight of our goals,
to becoming so discouraged by the journey
that we will hitch a ride on anything that comes along.
Help us on our way. If we change our course, let it not be in self-interest,
but in order to share your love with another sojourner.
If we lose sight of our goals,
let our quest bring us as your curious people to honest searching of our faith.
If we become weary and discouraged and forget you are with us,
let it lead to recognition of our need for you.
As we travel in a world that all too often seems a trackless, hostile wilderness,
we ask that your Spirit sustain and surprise, encourage and excite,
and enable us to go on. AMEN

The Rev. Dr. Paul Peters Derry is a postulant for Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate.


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