Windows on Place and Home

“Where are you?” my friend asked on our Zoom call. “In lockdown,” I replied. Just like that, the place I call “home” had become “lockdown.” Home has been changed by COVID-19: life inside home and outside home is simply not the same. Place can remain constant and still be utterly different.   

Under other circumstances (formerly known as normal), home is the place where many can most fully act in freedom, including exercising our choice to be or not to be at home. Most of us—though not everyone—can typically move in and out of home with personal freedom to go where and when we want.

Until suddenly, under threat from an invisible, pernicious, and little understood virus, nearly everyone around the world is required to be in lockdown. If that is not severe enough, we are also expected to practice social distancing and to wear face masks for an indefinite period of time—all of this, ironically, to express the wisest and most caring way to be in loving community. Locking ourselves inside is the best way to care for our neighbors.

Just as home changes, so the places we normally go around home seem to have moved. Their distance from our home feels greater and, in literal and metaphorical ways, they are less accessible. The idea of “going to Peet’s Coffee” now seems like a nostalgic voyage.

Under these new days of COVID-19, I am traveling more than ever. Of course, all my travels are online, and I have been “in” more countries, states, and homes than ever before. The endless train of Zoom meetings takes many of us into one another’s personal spaces together with family, friends, and colleagues. This too affects our sense of place. Being home is currently the best place from which to be “away.”

As congregations love their neighbors by meeting online rather than in person, our church family and church home are altered. This is not the home we want, but staying where we live respects, honors, and protects those in our church home and elsewhere. We choose “lockdown” as an ironic and fruitful embodiment of faithful communion.

These are a few windows into place and home under the new personal, national, and global circumstances. When first planning for this issue of FULLER magazine on “place,” nothing of what I have written so far could have been imagined. We were thinking in very different terms, in part oriented to questions arising from our possible campus move and then our decision to stay in Pasadena. In that decision were joy and challenge. Yet we could not have imagined the still more consequential change of “place” presented by the coronavirus. It may be clear that Fuller’s location is Pasadena, but meanwhile, what is our place in these radically changed times?

We always do well to remember our place of places: life in Christ. This is the home that is gracious enough, powerful enough, capacious enough to hold our and our neighbors’ constant and changing places. This is a place that can handle our fears, anxieties, frustrations, angers, and dangers. Here is where we can “shelter in place” at all times, in light of all that we do know and all that we do not know—before, during, and after COVID-19, or anything else. This is the place where we find both radical constancy and radical transformation. It is also the place from which we are to stretch out in love to family and friends, strangers and enemies. In addition to being our shelter, this is the place that gives us our calling to live daily as first responders, wherever we are.

Mark Labberton with glasses

Mark Labberton, President

“Where are you?” my friend asked on our Zoom call. “In lockdown,” I replied. Just like that, the place I call “home” had become “lockdown.” Home has been changed by COVID-19: life inside home and outside home is simply not the same. Place can remain constant and still be utterly different.   

Under other circumstances (formerly known as normal), home is the place where many can most fully act in freedom, including exercising our choice to be or not to be at home. Most of us—though not everyone—can typically move in and out of home with personal freedom to go where and when we want.

Until suddenly, under threat from an invisible, pernicious, and little understood virus, nearly everyone around the world is required to be in lockdown. If that is not severe enough, we are also expected to practice social distancing and to wear face masks for an indefinite period of time—all of this, ironically, to express the wisest and most caring way to be in loving community. Locking ourselves inside is the best way to care for our neighbors.

Just as home changes, so the places we normally go around home seem to have moved. Their distance from our home feels greater and, in literal and metaphorical ways, they are less accessible. The idea of “going to Peet’s Coffee” now seems like a nostalgic voyage.

Under these new days of COVID-19, I am traveling more than ever. Of course, all my travels are online, and I have been “in” more countries, states, and homes than ever before. The endless train of Zoom meetings takes many of us into one another’s personal spaces together with family, friends, and colleagues. This too affects our sense of place. Being home is currently the best place from which to be “away.”

As congregations love their neighbors by meeting online rather than in person, our church family and church home are altered. This is not the home we want, but staying where we live respects, honors, and protects those in our church home and elsewhere. We choose “lockdown” as an ironic and fruitful embodiment of faithful communion.

These are a few windows into place and home under the new personal, national, and global circumstances. When first planning for this issue of FULLER magazine on “place,” nothing of what I have written so far could have been imagined. We were thinking in very different terms, in part oriented to questions arising from our possible campus move and then our decision to stay in Pasadena. In that decision were joy and challenge. Yet we could not have imagined the still more consequential change of “place” presented by the coronavirus. It may be clear that Fuller’s location is Pasadena, but meanwhile, what is our place in these radically changed times?

We always do well to remember our place of places: life in Christ. This is the home that is gracious enough, powerful enough, capacious enough to hold our and our neighbors’ constant and changing places. This is a place that can handle our fears, anxieties, frustrations, angers, and dangers. Here is where we can “shelter in place” at all times, in light of all that we do know and all that we do not know—before, during, and after COVID-19, or anything else. This is the place where we find both radical constancy and radical transformation. It is also the place from which we are to stretch out in love to family and friends, strangers and enemies. In addition to being our shelter, this is the place that gives us our calling to live daily as first responders, wherever we are.

Written By

Mark Labberton, President

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