I like to think of myself as an outdoorsman. But I’ve never spent as much time outside as much as I’ve spent in 2020!
Family gatherings, neighborhood interactions, and church community activities have all moved to the great outdoors. It’s been helpful for lowering the risk of COVID transmission. And I’ve enjoyed getting more deeply acquainted with city parks, walking trails, decks, patios, and backyard spaces. Still, it hasn’t always been easy.
Moving outdoors has required creativity. Seeking out shade and moving events to early morning or late evening to avoid summer heat… Using umbrellas, canopies, and ground cover for rainy days… And, of course, bundling up as the weather has gotten colder.
Every season has had its challenges. Still this time of the year, as we descend from Fall into Winter, figures to be the hardest.
I also want to continue pursuing community, but the weather makes me want to stay inside. Particularly when it comes to church stuff, our leadership team feels strongly committed to protecting our flock from the spread of COVID-19. But we’re also committed to keeping the flock together as a means of protection against loneliness, discouragement, and depression. So we’re continuing to stretch our definition of “weather dependent.” And so far, our people seem to be going along with things.
I keep reminding myself that I’ve got tricks and tools to cope with the cold: scarves, stocking caps, down coats, and even heavily-quilted coveralls. But the trick that I’m currently using to cope with the cold weather the most involves none of these. In fact, it’s a deliberate disavowal of these mitigation strategies. I’m saving my scarves, stocking caps, down coats, and heavily-quilted coveralls until at least the beginning of November.
I’m calling these measures “Warmth Level 4,” and I’m waiting to unlock this level at least until November. It’s kind of ridiculous to leave perfectly good gear sitting in the closet when it could be put to good use. But it’s a mental coping mechanism for me. Keeping some “fuel in the tank.”
Warmth Level 1
When things first started getting colder, I put on some sleeves. A light jacket or a sweatshirt was enough to stay comfortable. This served me well for most of September.
Warmth Level 2
As evening temperatures slid into the 40s and 50s, I needed to start layering up. A hooded sweatshirt with a jacket on top. Maybe even some gloves. But no extreme measures. This got me through the first half of October, except for times like our Fall Retreat, where I was outside for an extended period of time.
Warmth Level 3
Over the past few weeks, I’ve beefed up my protection against the deepening cold with long underwear, lap blankets, and external heat sources (especially campfires). It’s gotten cold enough, with most days having highs in the 40s or 50s, that some extra measures would have been helpful. But I’ve been holding off. I have to confess, though, that I’m getting more and more excited to unlock the next level.
Warmth Level 4
I’m pretty excited to start using my heavy winter wear. It feels like it will be a big boost. In addition to scarves, stocking caps, down coats, and heavily-quilted coveralls, Warmth Level 4 includes a switch to flannel bed sheets. Marci and I have been thinking about this and talking about this regularly.
It’s silly. I know that November 1st is a pretty arbitrary designation for implementation these measures. But I’m really hoping that “Warmth Level 4” will be a “power pellet” to propel us all the way through November 20th (the date when Kent State University shuts down campus and sends students home for the holidays). Believe it or not, we’re considering further ministry outside in December, January, and February, which would require a Warmth Level 5 that I’ve never really used before. But I think it could be possible, using elements of Warmth Level 3 and Warmth Level 4 together.
We’ll see. It’s been a weird year of ministry. Our “Plan B” has given way to Plans C-G, or something. And we’re innovating all along the way. For this week, though, I’m just setting my sights on making it to Warmth Level 4.