My next-to-last book was a collection of Sunday prayers, prayed in the hospital chapel where I’m a chaplain. Each Sunday, I interacted with the texts for the week and with God and with the people watching on the closed-circuit channel and the people reading at my blog. We follow the liturgical calendar. Those prayers were from Advent 2018 through the Sunday before Advent in 2019.
Because the lectionary follows a three-year cycle, it made sense to do a second volume of those prayers. With the help of our daughter, Hope, those prayers were gathered, starting with Advent 2019.
I knew something was missing from the new book. The pandemic.
Because of the pandemic, our hospital system started a daily video in March, 2020. Each video lasted about seven minutes, had an interview with a leader or coworker, and always ended with a prayer from a chaplain. I was the chaplain several times, and so Hope and I added those prayers to the book.
There was still something missing from the book. Context.
We started talking about adding in some non-prayer chapters. They would be short summaries of COVID-19 numbers, the racial violence and responses, and other cultural events. And then we started looking at the real-time summaries I had already written.
I write six days a week at 300wordsaday.com, and occasionally at SocialMediaChaplain.com. Those posts come at the intersection of daily life, the Bible, prayer, and following Jesus. Though they are not the privacy of a personal journal, they do capture moments in time and prayer. As we looked through what I had written, we realized that this book needs to include those moments, as well.
And so, we are preparing a new book: “God. We still need you”: A pandemic year of prayer and practice from a hospital chaplain.
Starting with Advent 2019 and going through Thanksgiving 2020, these essays and prayers reflect one hospital chaplain’s conversations with God and others during a challenging year. The framework is the church calendar: Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Eastertide, Ordinary Time. Each section starts with orientation to the season, to what was happening outside the hospital, and what was happening inside. The heartbeat is the Sunday prayers. Essays from 300wordsaday.com and SocialMediaChaplain.com are placed into that framework at the time they were written.
The death and uncertainty aren’t always in the foreground of these prayers and reflections. There are stories that I can’t tell, moments that must be protected. But those stories and moments are always informing the writing.
And this isn’t a memoir, not in the kind that reviews the past and provides meaning. Instead, it is a journal, written in public, offering glimpses of a difficult year.
There are two people (or groups of people) I’d hand this book to. First, to the people I pray with and for. The people in my 300 parish. The people in my hospital parish. The people who have heard or read one or two of these and found them helpful and would like to have them collected.
Second, there are people who, like me, have been in healthcare during this year. I want to offer some voice to some of the things we were feeling at the time we were feeling them.
The target publication for the book is March 31, 2021. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.