Returning to Normal?

Returning to Normal?

After nearly six months, we will open our doors for worshippers again on Sunday, September 13 at 9:45 AM.  I have spelled out many details about our protocols for reopening in a recent email blast and we will share our protocols in this newsletter—our first since lockdown began in March.  Understandably, many will feel a strong desire to return to normalcy after a lengthy period of quarantine and reduced mobility.  Indeed, it will be good to see each other in person, after a half-year separation from worship in our beautiful sanctuary.  All of us will find, however, that this fall will not be like what used to be in our church life.

No doubt, many will choose not to return physically and will continue to worship via Zoom.  As a worshipping congregation which is in-person and virtual at the same time, we will be gathered in different modalities together.  Think about that.  I plan on conducting our service, which still focuses on virtual worshippers, even as people will be sitting in the sanctuary.  Perhaps this, in some small way, is a metaphor for the communion of saints which the church has recognized.  We believe that we are gathered in space and time while simultaneously being connected with a dimension outside of time and space which includes souls who are no longer in this material realm.

I share this as a way of stretching us to embrace a worship experience which will not make us feel like we are returning to normal.  Masks, physical distancing, no touching, no congregational singing, no coffee hour, no bulletins, while I speak not only to those in the pews, but also to those whose faces and names appear on my computer screen.  Remember that proverbial church complaint that “we have never done it that way before?”  Well, we are about to be forced into an experiment of doing church in a way that we never have before.  This will be a test.  This will go against the grain.  It may not feel good to us.  Or, it may awaken us to truly see the blessing of worship and community in ways we never have before.  When things come easily to us, we often take them for granted.  When things are taken away from us, we can see them in a new way—how precious they are.  I believe that God is with us powerfully in these extraordinary times.

In our decision making about reopening, the Session has tried to strike a balance between strictness and trust.  I have never felt so much like a parent.  If you know me, you know how much this role is not one to which I gravitate naturally.  God has a way of leading us into soul work that we might rather avoid.  So, yes, I am taking on the role of an insistent parent.  I am insisting on safety, even if it doesn’t feel good, even if it goes against the grain.  In the midst of this, I am hoping and holding the space for growth among us.  I am challenging myself and all of you to commit to treating our reality as an opportunity for spiritual practice.  Can we learn to bring presence and warmth and love to our new way of being together?  I note that we have done exactly this, these past six months.  You have shown up, even virtually, in powerful and loving ways which has created connection, encouragement and inspiration for others.  You have for me and I thank you.

Some of you, I look forward to seeing in church once again.  Some of you, I look forward to seeing you in virtual church as we have for many months now.  For all of us, I pray for an ever-deepening realization of the infinite love of God which holds us all in every moment.  Blessings all!

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