We are beginning the fourth week of snow and frigid temperatures here on Cape Ann. All of February has been snowy, with blizzards and heavy snowstorms in between the blizzards. The landscape is completely altered, which is what one might expect in Lent, but perhaps not with quite so much snow. Tonight, Saturday evening, we are expecting freezing rain and sleet, which means that church attendance will be sparse in the morning. Last week we cancelled worship, for a blizzard, and the temperatures dropped so low, the water pipes in the baseboard heater in my office burst, on Ash Wednesday. On Thursday, the official first day of Lent, we had no oil. Seven to eight foot snowdrifts covered the path to the fill pipes to the oil tanks. We sent out a red alert on our email list, and within 15 minutes over 7 people showed up with shovels to dig a path to the tanks. That’s really something.
Part of what’s happening for me, in these snow emergencies, is learning to ask for help. It’s not that I don’t ask. I do, but not often enough. One of the blessings of our community here is that we can ask for help, and know that someone will show up. I had planned a different sort of Lenten discipline this year, and like every other Lent I’ve experienced, my plans are usually overturned a few hours into Ash Wednesday. You would think I would have learned. I forget from year to year. Lent ends up being entirely out of my hands–as it should be, of course, I just wish I could remember and stop over-preparing.
Today, at St. Paul, after this crazy week of snow, we hosted a small gathering of people from five other churches from the Northeastern, MA, and Boston Metro conferences. People drove here from the city because we had a parking lot. There’s no place to park in Boston right now. You never think of a parking lot as an asset, but it is for us. In this winter, all the neighborhood has been parking in our lot, because there’s no place else to put cars. After the first two weeks of storms, our snow-plow bill was over $1500 and more snow is coming; it’s falling as I write. In the spirit of asking for help, we decided to put notices on everyone’s cars–if you are parking here in the snowstorms, please help us with plowing costs. And the neighborhood did. The winter’s not over, not by a long shot, but I think I’ll try asking for more help. That would be a truly repentant act in some ways, because it undoes the false perception of self-sufficiency. We are interdependent, one body, St.Paul writes, one living body in Christ. Being in community brings me back to that beautiful truth again and again–we need each other. I’m grateful for the help this week, divine and human. The kingdom of God was near, in spite of the snow, and maybe because of it.