Dry Desert
He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna... in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 8:3

Here’s something I’m pretty sure you don’t know about me yet: I have a podcast* coming out tomorrow, Monday, November 22.

It's a podcast I'm producing under the auspices of Yale Bible Study. Every Monday, two professors from Yale Divinity School (where I earned my MDiv and am still a student) talk for about 10 minutes about one of the lectionary readings from the coming Sunday. It’s based on the Revised Common Lectionary, the schedule we follow for our Sunday Scripture readings.

I’m the host, and I’m also one of the producers of the podcast: recording and editing it, as well as setting up the professors with each other and with their texts. We’ve been working on this project for about 2.5 years, so I’m extremely excited for the world to finally hear these episodes!

A dark blue background, with the words Chapter, Verse, and Season in bold at the top. Below them, smaller and in italics, it says A Lectionary Podcast from Yale Bible Study

The hope is that preachers will use this as part of their sermon preparation (looking at you, lay preaching crew!) and that it will be helpful for anyone following the lectionary—which includes every regular attender of Episcopal Churches.

The podcast is called Chapter, Verse, and Season.

At that link, you can read more, subscribe, or listen to the trailer of our first season and episodes when they come out. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts: Apple, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, and more on the way.

Thank you for indulging me this opportunity to share something I'm working on. And if you do listen, please let me know! I’d love to know what you think.

*In case you’re not familiar: podcasts are a type of internet media, with new episodes that come out regularly on a given topic. They tend to be audio-only (though some have a video component). Think of them like radio shows, which you can download on your phone and listen to whenever you want. Most of the popular national radio shows like This American Life are also available to download as podcasts.

If you’re like me, you’re feeling exhausted by the constant risk calculation and decision-making surrounding COVID.

What should you do for Thanksgiving? Should you RSVP “yes” to that wedding this spring? Is it safe to fly? Do you really need a booster yet? Is it safe to take off your mask when you get to the office? Can you go back to commuting on the train instead of driving

It’s hard to know how to make these decisions.

Closeup of a pile of unused, light blue surgical masks
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Enter: the risk budget.

A risk budget says we should imagine that each of us has a certain amount of risk we’re willing to take on. Each activity “spends” a little bit of that risk. If you use up enough of your risk budget within a certain time period, then you stop doing anything until your budget gets refilled.

How much can you “spend?”

The total risk you’re willing to “spend” comes from a few factors.

  • Do you live alone? With several people? With how many people does your collective household spend time indoors and unmasked?

  • What is your risk of a bad outcome from COVID-19? What about that risk for everyone in your household and pod? Do you regularly come into contact with any vulnerable people?

  • How much risk are you willing to take on?

Where will you “spend” it?

The way you choose to spend your risk will depend on how risky each of your required and desired activities are.

  • How much of your risk gets spent at work and/or school?

  • How much is left for leisure, self-care, and other activities?

  • Can you mitigate the risk of any of your activities with a better mask, distancing, open windows, going outside, or limiting your time around others?

  • If you choose to do a particularly risky activity, what other activities will you forego so you don’t exceed your budget?

A Calculator

The above are just guidelines, but if you want some actual numbers and calculations, the folks at The microCOVID Project have your back. You can use their online risk calculator to estimate the COVID risk of your activities and compare it with your risk budget.

For example: attending worship at St. Paul’s for one hour on Sunday mornings, unvaccinated but wearing a KN95 mask, currently adds up to around 94 microCOVIDs. (This is also based on the overall risk in Hartford County right now.) If you’re using their Standard Caution Budget, that makes it a Moderate Risk activity.

But! If you’re double vaccinated with Pfizer in the above scenario, it brings your microCOVIDs for this activity down to 16, which is Low Risk for their standard budget.

The Best Part

This is the best part. These calculations remove the moralizing around our decisions.

If you choose not to get vaccinated (or your body can’t produce immunity from the vaccination), this calculator doesn’t yell at you. It just tells you that your risk for worshiping at St. Paul’s is nearly 6 times higher than it would be with a vaccination. Maybe, if you don’t leave your house except to grocery shop, that’s a risk you’re willing to take.

Each decision we make affects our options and one another. It’s our responsibility to continue to be diligent—exhausted by this as we may be—and keep everyone in our community safe, healthy, and whole.

A budget is a moral document. Whether it's our household budget, our personal budget, or our church's budget—the way we choose to spend money reflects our priorities.

2020-2021 Confirmation Class at Church by the Pond, Hartford

As you probably know, we're in the midst of our 2022 pledge drive. The Stewardship Committee wanted to figure out a way to show where your pledge dollars go, so we decided to create a narrative budget.

In this narrative budget, we pulled the actual dollar amounts for September 1, 2020 through August 31, 2021 and categorized them into four ways we do ministry here at St. Paul's:





2021 St Pauls Narrative Budget
Download PDF • 15.24MB

Download the full report above to see how your pledge dollars go toward supporting the ministry and mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Southington.

(A big thank you is due to Neil Walker, who did the most difficult work in the above report: the numbers!)

And remember, you can pledge online here. As of today, we're nearly halfway toward our goal.