What follows is an adaption of a letter I sent to Spirit of Joy! this week. I think what is said here about the congregation I serve is true of many of our congregations and communities.
At Spirit of Joy! we have had two long years.
We socially distanced ourselves thanks to a global pandemic. We had an unexpected flood of most of the building thanks to a natural disaster, which resulted in a massive remodel of our facilities. Now this Spring we have been returning in real ways to in-person worship.
Many congregations have experienced similar seasons these last two years. And with the latest CDC guidance on masks and COVID-19, we seem to be entering a new era. Turning a corner.
To be clear: we aren’t “returning to normal.”
Things are not the same as they were two years ago. It’s not possible to come back as if the last two years did not happen.
We aren’t going back to the way things were, we are moving forward to the new thing God is calling us to.
To try and “go back” is to ignore God’s call on this moment. God is ALWAYS calling us forward, not back. We are called into the future that God has in store for us and for the communities we serve. (Scripture is not kind to people who look back when God calls them forward. Check out the fate of Lot’s wife.)
Behold, I am Doing a New Thing
In this new thing, we will always worship BOTH online and in person.
There will always be people and families who cannot attend worship in-person; some have an immune compromised individual in the house, others are traveling, others have a cold that week, still others live three states (or further) away. While we return to in-person worship, we continue to make room for those who worship with us online. This new way of ministry allows us to carry the Good News farther than ever before.
In this new thing, we are aware that things change quickly.
We saw it these last two years with changing public health recommendations and with the need to adapt to a flooded building. Public health recommendations could change again. The national and global political realities could change on a dime (as we are seeing in Ukraine). As a community, we look forward to what God is calling us to in these changing realities, rather than wishing for what used to be.
In this new thing, some people will continue to choose to wear masks and some people will choose to not wear masks.
Out in the rest of the world, masks have become a dividing topic – a sign of ones political or ideological leanings. Here in the church, we do not make any assumptions about one another based on choices around masks. Given how aware we have all become of how easily we share germs, masks will likely be a part of our lives in public for years to come. And given how quickly things change, we are prepared to adapt to any new and different public health recommendations as we move forward.
This new thing is filled with opportunity.
God has a unique mission for every congregation in the neighborhood in which they are planted. As return to in-person gatherings again, we will discover God’s mission for our congregation and for our lives. Amazing ways that we can make a difference in our community and in the world.
In this new thing, we all have a role to play.
For us, faith is not a spectator sport. Each one of us brings gifts and talents, passions and excitement to the table. Each one of us contributes something unique and special to our ministry. We need another, and we need all of us.
An Invitation to a Joyful New Thing
I am so excited to be a part of this new thing with you – to discover together what God has in store for us. Here are some things we can all do as we move forward into God’s amazing future:
- Pray for your congregation and your mission.
- Pray for our Pastor and Leadership Team
- Worship on Sunday together – both online and in-person
- Participate in activities outside of Sundays
- Volunteer to participate in the new thing your church is doing