Wisdom arises in surprising settings. Friday’s Blether produced some amazing insights for me. We were talking about how we are doing now, and whether things seem to be settling into a sort of familiarity! Are we getting accustomed to masks when we go out? Are we okay with lining up, and keeping distance?
Amidst this discussion, I heard a growing consensus that things will never go back to what they were before…that we ought not to erase the learning we have gained from going through these experiences. And there was concern raised about “virus-deny-ers” pressuring us to allow them to regain what they believe are their lost privileges, and that maybe we will surrender to their demands. So, there was pessimism and optimism in the same gathering.
Later that day I was catching up on some reading. In an e-magazine entitled “Faith & Leadership” there was an article entitled: “How To Think About What’s Next When The Future is Unclear.” The author, Nathan Kirkpatrick, wrote:
Fewer and fewer of us now believe that after this crisis, life will just go back to the way it was. It is becoming clearer that life on the “other side” will be indelibly and irrevocably changed.Nathan Kirkpatrick, Managing Director for Leadership Development https://faithandleadership.com/nathan-kirkpatrick-how-think-about-whats-next-when-future-unclear
That led me to think about those formative stories of our ancestors in the faith, who found themselves in times of transition and change, and how, amidst all that they experienced, they began to see the hand of God working and shaping them towards their future, to “make all things new” as it were.
So, here’s some of my guesses about going forward.
- Relationships are critical. Our “on-line time” has taught us that people are the essence of Church. When we see one another “in our electronic squares on the screen” we are conscious of all the connections and stories that bind us – and we see everyone, not just the few around us in pews.
- Distances shrink. Electronic worship demands more person-to-person interaction. The distance between pulpit or choir loft and pew shrinks to the distance between you and your screen. There is an intimacy there, and people are appreciating that feeling of being personally connected. And people will be able to connect with us from wherever they are, not just by coming to one place at one time!
- We will cherish vulnerability in our worship. We are letting one another into our homes, our bedrooms, kitchens, dens – even our play-tents and studios. Dogs and cats appear on our screens. Bloopers are visible – and may be being recorded for posterity. Ministers seem themselves preaching as if they were sitting in the pews – and that is truly humbling!
- Diversity will become a hallmark of our churches going forward. We have learned that not all things appeal to all people – some will forever want an on-line presence to worship, for many reasons.
- The shape and focus of our buildings may significantly change. Like business, we may discover that we do not need as many facilities (or ones as large). Maybe we can share buildings with other congregations or even faiths. We are discovering that relationships are more significant than property…though what this will mean about our use of space in the future is not yet clear.
In all this, and more, there is one thing of which I am sure…We are not alone! Our faith tells us stories over and over again of God’s people encountering challenging times, only to discover that God is there with them, in the midst of those times, and at the same time, is awaiting them on the other side.
We are God’s beloved. We are never alone!
Thanks be to God.