This year, I had a planned pregnancy amidst an unplanned career change, and I found myself in my first year at a new job, working from home due to a global pandemic.

For delivery, only my husband could be with me. We weren’t allowed visitors at the hospital or once we were home. It was wonderful to introduce our son to our daughter when we were home, but it was gut-wrenching that our parents couldn’t meet their granddaughter for weeks after her birth. My parents moved to be closer to me so we could help each other, and I was counting on them being part of my second child’s birth (my first child was unexpectedly born in Boston five weeks early during a blizzard). We were physically close, yet separated. New technology, like FaceTime, made this somewhat bearable, but it’s not the same as sharing these moments in the same room.

We were overwhelmed by our church family preparing for baby and after baby’s birth. They arranged meal deliveries for the first few weeks. They called, texted, and mailed cards to show their care for us. They brought us their post-maternity work clothes and their children’s previously-loved clothes of multiple sizes, so we had everything we needed. They brought us the love of God, made manifest through our church family and the power of the world wide web.

Just before I went into labor, I collaborated with two priests and a rabbi in Memphis to make a funny PSA about staying at home as a demonstration of faith and care for our communities. Just before I returned to work, I collaborated with young clergywomen to make a video of apology to LGBTQ persons hurt by churches, inspired by the fifth season premiere of Queer Eye. An inclusio to my daughter’s birth, these encounters linked me with clergywomen in my community (and beyond) devoted to loving our neighbors, advocating for the vulnerable, and showing up for each other in the ways we can until we can join shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand again.

Now that I am back at work, I face fear of my own exposure added to the agony of being separated from a newborn. All newborns have undeveloped immunity, and all new mothers worry. In a pandemic, however, maternal fear is extremely raw, all the time.

Those who have survived trauma know that security is an illusion, but the comfortable assume security is their right. The truth is, nothing is certain but the love of God. Pain nor illness discriminate, but God’s love will always sustain us, no matter what. I can mother my children as God mothers me. I can love others as God loves me. I can follow as God commanded us, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

No matter what is happening in the world, no matter how many people are(n’t) in our buildings, as God’s people live according to love and justice, the church is open, active, and alive.

Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace is the Prathia Hall Scholar in Residence of Social Justice History Equity for Women in the Church.