Local Episcopalian Priest shares experience visiting COVID-19 patient

Published 2:23 pm Thursday, June 25, 2020

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Those find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, will find it.” (Matt. 10:24)
“Thank you, St. Thomas for your critical witness for Jesus Christ during this time of pandemic, loss of lives to COVID-19 and to senseless killing caused by the racism and hate on our streets. You, St. Thomas and self-giving, dedicated nurses and chaplains are at the ‘very heart of God,’” a 73 year-old Mexican American COVID-19 patient at Johnson City Medical Center, told me this week.
In the humility and deep need of our lives and souls is where God gets the work done.
St. Thomas, a bilingual congregation, is becoming known in the area as a people who care for migrant workers, often the least regarded and appreciated among us. Most of these beautiful people are far away from home and family. Receiving a call requesting that we bring Communion to “José,” a farm worker in Unicoi County for 35 years, we celebrated Eucharist from St. Thomas’ reserved Sacrament from the Altar Tabernacle. There he was alone, speaking only Spanish, wonderfully cared for by nurses, doctors, chaplains, and technicians, struggling for life through this dreaded disease claiming today over 600,000 lives worldwide.
Led by two nurses and two chaplains – saints of God – we gathered at a large windrow where José could see us and we him. Separated by an ante-room and a thick glass window, this son of Mexico was given the Body of Jesus from a nurse in “hazmat.” At that moment this frail man immediately came to life expressing his joy and gratitude loudly. All of us could not help but to embrace as we waved and opened our arms and hearts to José.
Gifts from St. Thomas of Libro de Comun, a prayer book, our exchange of words expressing great care and love for us all, over a special phone, and, then the finalé, a big Mexican flag which delighted this dear man separated from family and home.
I cannot wait to see him again. Prospects improve for recovery. Thank God, “Gracias á Dios.”
Thinking nothing about ourselves confronting these “heavy” days during those moments with José, strangers became friends, the Gospel living and real, the darkness into sunshine and light, as we joined on this Saturday morning in God’s greatest gifts: love of God, our own lives, and one another – especially José. Because, it was José, emptied, dreadfully sick, and some would say hopeless, even “undesirable,” who drew us together, gave us hope, purpose, and a peace that surpasses any human understanding. I rejoice in the Spirit of José.
(The Reverend Timothy Holder serves as Priest and Pastor at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Elizabethton. He received a Master of Divinity from Harvard University in 1997 spending time at Keble College, Oxford. A tenth generation native of Carter County, Father Holder is a doctoral candidate at Virginia Theological Seminary with a focus in Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University. He invites everyone to join area churches and organizations to “Tri-Cities LatinX” monthly meetings to welcome Latino neighbors in the area.)

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