At about 3 months into this pandemic, I must admit, I was already tired of it. Tired of every conversation – every news report – every trip out of the house – every blessed thing I bought having to be sanitized – being focused on the coronavirus. I was tired of having to wear a mask – of people not wanting to wear a mask – of xenophobic accusations of its origin – of people denying it was a serious problem – of every life decision having to be based on staying safe. That was in June of 2020. At least, I thought, this will be over by the end of summer and we will move on. It wasn’t, and we didn’t. Things got worse – medically, politically, socially – things got worse. In less than a year, more Americans died from Covid related illnesses than died in WW II. Chew on those numbers.
This past weekend, our UCC Conference meeting had the blessed opportunity to welcome Sister Simone Campbell as our Friday speaker. Sister Simone is famous for being one of the ring-leaders of “The Nuns on the Bus”, a group that famously put the pope in his place a couple of decades ago. Sister Simone helped us think about our spirits, and how our mourning over these 15 months can lead us into a better place. Like her bus, we can move forward. If we want to. If we have the courage.
One of the bright spots many of our congregations have experienced is a deepening of spirituality – a maturing of our souls. We have been forced to accept the limitations of online ministry, and we have seen those efforts produce fruit. People who have trouble getting out, or live too far away to attend in person, or are just plain interested in what we have to say, have been able to enrich our gatherings. The downside is that this has exposed the digital chasm between the poor and everybody else, and many who do not have the internet for other reasons have been left behind. Still, this tool, too often used for greed and vice, has become a way to reach the masses that is good and life-affirming.
On June 20, our congregation will be meeting (8 am & 9:30 am) in person for the first time since March 8, 2020, and I am really excited about it – and a little nervous, if I can be honest. I have been slowly gaining my nerve to be around people without my mask on, but I also still wear it in some public areas. I have trusted the science all along, and I do now – but I am also aware that some people are more nervous than I am about this, and my wearing a mask brings them comfort and support, even if we don’t know each other. When we gather for worship, it will be modified, and we will still be on Facebook live and send a recording out, so that those who are still not ready, or live too far away, or can’t get out, can continue to participate. The church needs to be as inclusive as possible, and this is one way to do it.
I am ready to move forward; I am also ready to remember what we have been through so I can continue to do things differently. Many of the practices of church pre-Covid will continue, but much of what we had to adapt to will remain. This means that some of what we have done will not move forward with us, and that is a good thing. The church has always been at its best when it changes for the sake of the Gospel. This is a golden opportunity to do just that. I am ready to move forward. Are you?
Prayer – Today we admit to You God that we are tired, but also renewed. We have learned a lot about how we need to change, and that is both exciting and nerve-wracking. We need Your Holy Spirit to continue to guide us. Help us move forward. Amen.
Today’s image is one of those cute little memes – but I like the sentiment.