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Surviving and Coping in This Exile

November 7, 2020

Another Way for week of November 6, 2020

Surviving and Coping in This Exile

We call it the pandemic or the virus or I’ve heard some call it the plague. But the result is exile. Many of us are living in exile from family, friends, colleagues, and especially, church.

I was struck by that thought reading a devotional magazine Rejoice! where seminary dean, Valerie Rempel, describes how people in the Old Testament were exiled to Babylonia. Some 70 years later they wept as the priest Ezra read scriptures when they were finally able to worship together again. Nehemiah (the governor and cupbearer for the king) worked long and hard to restore the walls, gates, and temple in Jerusalem. Various groupings of workers came together to also repair partially ruined houses. When it was over, men and women gathered in the square with Ezra positioned high on a hill where everyone could see him.

The Bible in Nehemiah 8:9 speaks of them “weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” Ezra told them not to weep, but I think these were happy tears, tears of rejoicing and maybe some feeling sorry for themselves.

“Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written: ‘It is reported among the nations—and Geshemsays it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their kingand have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: “There is a king in Judah!” Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.’

I sent him this reply: ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head'” (Nehemiah 6: 5-8). 

Nehemiah even has reports of fake news. I was almost amused to read this scripture about the after effects of Nehemiah restoring the walls:

So fake news is nothing new.

There’s lots of stuff in Nehemiah to ponder in these days of separation and anguish. With exile lasting some 70 years, no wonder the people had forgotten the basis for their faith.

I know a lot of us have felt sorry for ourselves during this pandemic. I feel especially keenly for families not allowed to visit kin in nursing or retirement homes, and for those unable to have real memorial services for a deceased loved one.

I’ve felt a little pouty too, primarily when it comes to friends and family that we can’t just visit without being careful and without worrying if we are infecting someone unknowingly or they us. It is no way to live.

Trinity in an “exile” service set up for video taping with no more than 10 people in the room and keeping at least 6 feet apart and all workers wearing masks unless they are speaking. Our video team has done an awesome amazing job.

I think many of us at our church will weep when we are finally able to return safely to worshiping in the beloved little sanctuary of our smallish church. We have had music gatherings on the church lawn and fellowship and game nights via Zoom. We have attended worship by Facebook most Sundays. Visiting my 96-year-old mother in September, we were able to take her to a parking lot worship service at my home church which was installing a new pastor. Mom sat in our minivan while I stood outside and tried to help her understand what was going on (they lacked a radio frequency for the worship that Sunday). I squeezed back tears.

A recent afternoon of music on the lawn + “bubbles!” Both the physical kind (staying in bubbles with household or dear friends) and the soapy kind.

Others have shared blessings from this very difficult season of our lives. A church friend said she is “back teaching French—a class of one—for her 10th grade grandson.” He will actually get credit for the private course. My middle daughter says her sons have learned to know each other much better than when one was in daycare, and the other in a separate class or kindergarten. They’ve improvised creative play together as their imaginations take them on journeys of the mind.

My husband, right, all masked up on a very chilly and windy fall afternoon for an afternoon concert at our church, Trinity. Other families and folks in household bubbles.

Interestingly, we have had eight new adult members join our join during this tumultuous time, and even though our worship is only conveyed via Facebook. I invite you to joint our streaming service Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m.

Let us continue to remember and pray for those suffering and losing loved ones, and those taking care of patients amid this exhausting virus.


Subscribe to the Rejoice! devotional that I love to use, and that I occasionally write for. Plus, other Rejoice! writers compiled a special edition out of this time of exile, that you may want to buy for yourself, family member, pastor, or a friend. It is FREE! Check here.

Other comments? Contact me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Very newsy – and emotionally charged, Melodie. I realize how much less isolated I fell than most folks here in the States and around the world. I can see my family (with masks and at a safe distance) and attend a church service similarly, in a bubble as you well describe. Your description of your mother at the service, not quite connecting, was so affecting.

    But I feel the cloud of existential grief and oppression which I don’t think will leave our planet very soon. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you, Marian, for checking in. Yes you are very fortunate to see your family, masks and all. My mother feels like it is worse than the depression–but she wasn’t fully grown then. At least she has her volunteer work and I know that is absolutely what is keeping her going and caring and praying in these days. Have a great week and I’ll look forward to hearing what’s up with your creative juices Wed.!

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