Reverend Brett Younger's Articles on COVID-19 and Religion

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Reverend Brett Younger's Articles on COVID-19 and Religion

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"Easter at the epicenter: last Sunday in New York" is an honest description of the difficulty of living through a pandemic in one of the hardest hit spots in the country. Younger recognizes that hope was hard to feel this Easter, but that only meant that whatever hope they did feel meant more.
Hope in the Time of Coronavirus provides tips on how to cope during the pandemic: look for bright spots, help when you can, and find moments of gratitude.
Opinions & Observations: When New York gets quiet addresses how much quieter New York is. The city that never sleeps is suddenly silent. Younger recognizes this a chance to appreciate what really counts, think about what we want when the pandemic ends, and sense the hope that lies beyond these challenging times.

Date Created

April 14, 2020
April 28, 2020
May 21, 2020

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Plymouth Church

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New York

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Brooklyn

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op-ed

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English

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Easter at the epicenter: last Sunday in New York
OPINION

BRET T YOUNGER  |  APRIL 14, 2020

Gwyneth Paltrow is offering her
Instagram followers advice while they
self-quarantine. The Goop founder
recommends that everyone use the
pandemic as an opportunity to “write a
book, learn an instrument or a
language, or learn to code online.” Gwyneth may be
disappointed to learn that most of us who live in New York
have not taken up the cello, are not learning French, will not be
finishing our novel and are not completely sure what learning
to code means.
Many are working long hours in difficult situations, unable to
distance themselves. Many are serving in frightening
circumstances in hospitals. Many have lost their jobs. Many are
sick. Many have died.
I am tired of friends who live in Nebraska closing their
Facebook posts with a cheery “We got this!” In Brooklyn, where
I am a pastor, “We got this!” has a different connotation amid
the blaring ambulance sirens we hear every day.
As a church member said during one of the one hundred
Zoom meetings and chats I have been on in the last month,
“The road is washed out and we’re not sure where we’re going.”
We wake up surrounded by despair. We feel helpless and
anxious. We want to look at a bundle of mail, a door handle or a
box of groceries without worrying that it is covered with
invisible germs that could make us sick or kill us.
We spend our days knowing that
the next story about a nurse,
soldier or teacher who died too

“Easter was a
hard day to

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soon will make us cry again. We
want to travel farther than our
stoop, share a cup of coffee with
our friends and go to church. We
want to stop pretending we know
more about medicine than we
actually know.

feel hope in
our
congregation,
which may
mean that
whatever
hope we felt
matters more.”

We want life to be ordinary again –
even though we are not sure what
that will look like. What has to
happen for us to feel normal?
When will we be comfortable?
How will we know this is over? When will it be okay to go to a
ball game, restaurant or theater?

What scientist or politician will we trust when he or she
tells us it is all right to hug grandma? How long until we shake
hands again? How uneasy will we feel when we do?
We are waiting for an invisible enemy to retreat. How will we
know when our adversary is gone? We just want it to be over.
COVID-19 made
this a painful
Easter. We missed
the crowd of
friends,
overabundance of
lilies, glut of plastic
eggs, surplus of
chocolate and
embarrassment of
bunnies. We did not
have hot cross buns
or marshmallow
peeps, because
right now death feels more powerful than life.
Sunday did not feel like Easter; except for this: what may have
been our saddest Easter may also have been our most Easterlike Easter. This Easter felt frightening, somber, and confusing

LGBT Christians
push to overturn
Young Life’s
‘sexual conduct’
policy
Hundreds of
Positions
Eliminated at
Evangelical
Colleges and Universities
With Falwell on
leave, Liberty
board names Jerry
Prevo acting
president

– like the first Easter. The fear of death makes us cherish life.
Longing for hope is the first step towards experiencing hope.
On Sunday, I stood in an empty room to proclaim the empty
tomb. We prayed that feeling the death that encircles us would
lead to a deeper life. We hoped that we might break through,
even though it feels like we are breaking down. Instead of
pretending sorrow does not exist, we tried to face it head on.
We want to know that death will not destroy us. Easter was a
hard day to feel hope in our congregation, which may mean
that whatever hope we felt matters more.
On Sunday, we longed to believe that darkness will not win and
death will not be victorious. We want to be raised with Christ to
new life. We want to let joy loose in our hearts, even though it
seems premature.
We gathered in front of laptops and heard the promise that one
day the long night will be over and the morning will break. We
gathered in virtual space at the epicenter of a global pandemic
and tried to believe that the death that surrounds us does not
compare with the life God will give.
This year it is clear that we need a path that leads from death to
life. We need Easter’s hope. We need to believe that life will
triumph over death.
On Sunday in New York, we knew how much we need Easter.
Read more BNG news and opinion on this topic:
#intimeslikethese
 
536

OPINION: VIEWS EXPRESSED IN BAPTIST NEW S GLOBAL COL UMNS AND
COMMENTARIES ARE SOLELY THOSE OF THE AUTHOR S.
TAGS: #intimeslikethese COVID-19 Easter New York pandemic Plymouth Church

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Hope in the Time of Coronavirus
Brett Younger is the Senior Minister, Plymouth Church,
Brooklyn.
BRETT YOUNGER (HTTPS://BKLYNER.COM/AUTHOR/BYOUNGER/)
APRIL 28, 2020 @12:29 PM (HTTPS://BKLYNER.COM/2020/04/)

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This is one of those moments when you realize you are not in control. You are a child at the top
of the Ferris wheel when it stops moving. When it starts swaying you ask your dad, “How do we
know it won’t fall?” Our current crisis shows that we don’t always know.
Six weeks ago feels like six years ago. We wake up and wonder what bad news is waiting. We are
disoriented, afraid and bewildered. We worry about our parents. We worry about our children.
We worry about people living in poverty. Health care workers are overwhelmed. Nursing homes
fear for their residents and staff. We want to close our eyes, crawl into a ball, and wake up on the
otherside.
But despite seemingly endless opportunities to worry, we can live with hope and grow from this.
Below are a few tips that can help you cope during this unprecedented time:

Look for bright spots
Some are working more hours than ever, but many have extra time. Many who have longed to
slow down now have to. We may learn to sleep again. We might actually get the recommended
eight hours. Some homeschooling classes may end with students getting suspended and
teachers drinking on the job, but parents are discovering they enjoy their children and their
teachers are underpaid. With all our hours at home, spring cleaning is a legitimate option. We
may nd small glimmers of hope if we look at this through the right lens.

Help when you can
Putting your energy into helping others can help break the cycle of anxiety. Find virtual volunteer
opportunities. Donate to your local food pantry. Consider giving money (even part of your
stimulus check) to someone who needs it more than you. At Plymouth Church, we are
coordinating our members to support folks in our community who may be struggling right now,
including seniors, parents with young kids, single people, and those with underlying conditions.
Helping in small ways will make a big difference—for others, and for yourself.

Find moments of gratitude
Of course, be grateful for friends and family who are healthy, for our heroic health care workers,
and for the essential employees who keep our society moving forward. But take some time to
re ect on the things that we once took for granted. When this is over, we should be more
grateful for a heartfelt hug, dinner in a restaurant, walking our children to school, and worship in a
sanctuary.
How will be different when we are past these hard days? This crisis is a terrible, painful, and
dangerous opportunity to grow. We can become more like the people we hoped to be. We can
be better for each other as we go through the worst. And when the worst is over, what lasts will
be our love for each other.

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Opinions & Observations: When New York gets
quiet
May 21, 2020 Rev. Brett Younger, senior minister at Plymouth Church

Senior Minister Rev. Brett Younger of Plymouth Church. Photo courtesy of Rev. Brett Younger

New York does not sound like New York right now. Fewer cars are on the street. Fewer
planes are overhead. Were the birds this loud three months ago? We bang pots and pans
each night at 7:00 to show our appreciation for first responders, but as the weeks pass it
feels like we are letting our neighbors know that we are still alive.
We may have thought we wanted more quiet time, but now we are not so sure. You come to
the end of a long day. The dishes are done. You are by yourself. It is a perfect time to
meditate on the day’s events — what was good, what was not, what you could have done
differently, and what you hope for tomorrow. What do we usually do? We turn on some
noise. We have a hard time being quiet — especially when life is hard and we have to think
about death.
I was riding in a limousine to a graveside service in Green-Wood Cemetery. Most of the
people in the car were family so — except for the masks — the conversation was comfortable
and familiar. Then the funeral director said, “See those smokestacks. That’s the
crematorium. They’ve been going non-stop since this thing began.” We stopped talking. The

silence was painful.
In the United States, more than a thousand people a day are dying from COVID-19. That
monstrous figure is not going to stop soon. We need to sit with despair, so that when a new
day finally comes it will be a new day.
For many, this horrible pandemic is a chance to be still. We want everything to go back to
normal, but we need to figure out how we are going to live now. We want things to hurry up,
but while we are stuck waiting, we can grow in our appreciation of stillness.
Quarantine has given us time to think. Some are tired of looking at screens and have started
meditating. We are thinking deeper thoughts, contemplating the meaning of life, and
learning to be still.
I am reading better books, jogging without earbuds, and spending more time unplugged —
praying, hoping, and listening. I am becoming more thoughtful. I have been thinking about
how what I most want is what everyone most wants — I want to be loved by the people I care
about. What I most need is to love others with the love I have received. Those are not earthshattering insights, but they are worth thinking about.
We need to use this time to think. How do we want to be different when this over? How can
we be better for the people to whom we are closest? To which relatives do we need to pay
more attention? What have we learned about how we want to spend the rest of our lives?
How will we know when it is time to look for another job? Is this virus making retirement
look better or is it making going back to work look really good? How are we going to live
more deeply? Can we learn to be present? Can we come out of this more attentive?
Quarantine is miserable in so many ways. We are not going to be through this soon enough,
but it will finally end. Until then, we have a chance to love silence, quiet our minds, and be
grateful for solitude.
In the midst of anxiety, we can slow down and appreciate what really counts, trust
something other than our money, and learn to live in peace. We can be still enough to sense
the hope beyond this challenging time. Read. Write. Sing. Paint. Pray. And when this is over,
hold on to those practices. Listen for what matters most.
Rev. Brett Younger is senior minister at Plymouth Church, which is located in Brooklyn
Heights.