At the end of March, facing the closing of church buildings and the need to practice physical distancing and stay-at-home orders, the Rev. Stacey Kohl decided to embrace the Holiness at Home with a YouTube series for Christ Episcopal Church, Norwich.
I reached out to Stacey to talk about how she came up with the idea for Holiness at Home and her hopes for the series. Below you will find our interview and all seven available videos.
Alli: Why you decided to start Holiness at Home?
Stacey: Honestly, it was a combination of inspiration and desperation! The desperation came first with the realization my husband and I were going to be home indefinitely with a rambunctious 2-year old. I found myself asking, “how am I going to survive this?”
Inspiration came second. There are lots of churches live-streaming services across Connecticut and beyond, so that base is covered. I sensed a need to ask a different question for my parish and myself: “What can I offer that will be honest to who I am as a priest and storyteller and also offer support to others in the midst of chaos?”
If I was going to survive this much time in my home, I had to find a way to remind myself of God’s constant presence in each and every space. I also knew so many would be struggling with the same feelings of isolation, fear, and anxiety that I would be.
As a storyteller with experience in video production, the answer to my questions became the “Holiness at Home” series.
Alli: What does it mean to have holiness at home in the midst of COVID-19?
Stacey: A great question that I would adjust a bit: “What does it mean to recognize holiness at home, period.” My sense is that many of us recognize God’s presence in other parts of our world—in nature, in our church buildings, in places of oppression where we are seeking justice—but we often forget God is equally present in our homes. Our bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, and yes, bathrooms, are holy spaces because God is present in them. And if God is present in them, then we are never alone and never separated from God’s love.
Alli: How is the series going so far?
Stacey: So far so good! The response has been very positive. I’ve heard from people in my parish, friends, and family who have found them all very encouraging. Bishop Laura Ahrens even “guest hosted” one (from her living room)!
Alli: What have you personally learned from it?
Stacey: One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn (re-learn?) is to release my own agenda. Whether it’s a desire to make a “perfect” professional-quality video on a cell phone or many of my own ideas about where holiness lies in a particular space, my agenda isn’t necessarily what God has in mind.
For example, I thought the kitchen would be about how we are being sustained by God in the midst of pandemic; until I shot the video last week and discovered God has something much different in mind.
You’ll have to watch to find out what though.
Each week, Stacey uploads a new video to the series. As of today, May 18, 2020, there are seven videos total, which all are available on Christ Church, Norwich’s YouTube page, linked here. While the process has been expansive over the past seven weeks, I can say with certain that watching all seven videos at once does have an impact as well. As you watch these reflections from Stacey (and Bishop Laura!) of places in her home of love, joy, sorrow, and all the various spaces of life in a home, you being to look at your own home in a new way.
I must say though, my favorite episode (while all are wonderful and powerful in their own and together) is latest episode — the bathroom! Holiness in a bathroom?! What?! Stacey’s understanding of what it means to “be laid bare” and how that connects the reality of our physical and spiritual space is raw and poignant. It is a space where we can just be… ourselves and with God. And, as Stacey talks about, the challenge is bringing the authenticity and honesty we have alone in the bathroom outside — in our relationships, our friendships, and our lives.
As Stacey moves through her home experiencing and embracing the holiness which dwells all around, she invites you to do the same in your own home.