The Empty Calendar

About three weeks ago, I noticed something different happening. Usually, my calendar fills up months in advance with meetings, conferences, and in-person gatherings to address local needs or to talk in confidence. I had several ZOOM meetings that were regular occurrences as well. But something changed, and I watched as one by one, my calendar cleared. Meeting after meeting after meeting was cancelled or postponed. Even some of my ZOOM meetings were no longer necessary.

Our children’s schools closed. The church Day School was closed as well.

The big event in the United Methodist Church that cancelled was the General Conference in Minneapolis in May. And because that was cancelled, some of the work happening locally to prepare for that event dropped out of calendar. A speaking engagement in Montana was postponed. We cancelled flights and hotels for three major events including some vacation time.

And a new thing: pastors were not allowed to visit patients in the hospitals, care facilities, or in some hospice facilities. All we could do was pick up the phone and call. The gas in my car extended further than it had ever before.

At the same time, the church moved to on-line worship only, and suddenly the local events that were scheduled also disappeared. This week, when we officially closed the church office and moved it to our remotely located homes, the last of my calendar events were cleared.

It sounds like I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, but the truth is, pastors were working extra long hours to prepare our church for being the church without meeting in community. Telephone trees were formed. Online services took countless hours to figure out…and we are still learning how to do this without bringing harm to the worship leaders. Staff meetings were held by ZOOM, and took longer than normal to figure out how to reach out during this time. ZOOM meetings with church folk who had never met electronically was a learning curve.

Today, I look at my calendar and I see empty space. I am spending my time at home and with my family. Reading more is suddenly a cherished possibility. So is writing. I’m calling people to check on them, and spending some time on ZOOM meetings still. Last night the Mayor of Tucson ordered nonessential businesses to close and recommended residents to stay home. We are not sheltered-in yet in Arizona, but we are close to that reality and most are staying home to provide safety to those who are working the hardest to rid our community of this virus.

Space provides the possibility for us to hear God. The space of cleared calendars opens up the imagination to look at life and to face down death, and to see the places we might need to change. Space is difficult, but beautiful, and comes with the unease of a new kind of living. We don’t yet know how to handle it, but we are learning, and we are open to seeing life differently.

Calendar space is the new frontier. God be near us all as we listen, learn, and imagine something new. And God be near those who are sick, and bring healing and restore health.


  1. Dear Dottie, You continue to be a support and inspiration to all. I hope you and your family are doing well. I am here for you if you need anything at all. Just ask and I will listen. Sending Love, Sarah Tomassetti Rev. Sarah Tomassetti, M.Div.Member St. Francis in the Foothills, Director Genesis Healing Services and MinistriesClergy, Chaplain, Counselor,  Professor, Consultant, Cancer and Stroke Survivor.520-885-0882


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