Resolved for 2022: Help people come back

December 26th, 2021

As we move through a global pandemic and the ongoing struggle for justice, I'm returning to the biblical image of the people journeying through the wilderness: God’s cloud by day and lightning by night.

The outdoor tents we use for children’s choir and outdoor communion remind me of the tabernacle or meeting tent.

When people in the congregation or city argue over masks or vaccines, I recall how a weary Moses argued with God in the wilderness.

As COVID keeps members from entering their sanctuary, I consider how the Babylonian exile took away the temple.

When our youth gather on front porches or we celebrate a Christmas Eve service in a city park, I think about Paul’s journeys and how Paul and Lydia launched First Philippi by a river.

As we close out 2021, even with the hope brought by vaccines, we are still journeying together through unknown space. By remembering that God journeyed with our spiritual ancestors through many wildernesses, we are reminded that somehow we will emerge from this hard season and be alright.

Indeed, during the Babylonian exile, with the first temple destroyed, our spiritual ancestors reconnected with a daily practice of faith rooted in weekly gatherings to open the scriptures together. Their synagogue innovation still defines vibrant Jewish and Christain congregations. 

Two years into this pandemic, we are still moving through the luminal space between lockdowns and whatever the post-COVID normal will be.  The pandemic is teaching us new understandings of who, what, where, and how we are the church. Our stewardship campaign considered God’s promise through Isaiah 42:9 (CEB): “The things announced in the past—look—they’ve already happened, but I’m declaring new things. Before they even appear, I will tell you about them. (So Let us) Sing to the Lord a new song!”  We may long for comforting old wineskins, but as God grows new things, we must resolve to open our hearts to new rhythms, innovations, and insights.

During the first week of Advent our ministry staff gathered for a strategic planning retreat. Our collective New Year’s resolution can be described as “help people come back to church.”  We resolve to clear the path and help make ready the way so people might safely come back to church. However, we agreed that we cannot know all the verses of what our 2022 “come back” song will be. There are too many unknowns, since we still are asking: “How long, Lord?”  Will there be another surge? Will we have a General Conference? When will the streets again call us out to resist evil, injustice, and oppression? Will people who have enjoyed two years of church in pajamas make in-person worship their weekly priority? Will we remember people’s names after two years apart or in masks? Will we recognize children who now are six inches taller? Will we remember those we have lost, but did not mourn together? Will people who tune in from all over the world continue worshipping with us? Even as we resolve to help people come back, we also resolve to improve our livestream and hybrid models because they opened many new doors to church and helped many unable to physically come to church connect with worship. 

So our New Year's resolution is to help people reestablish regular patterns of weekly worship and to clear the path so people can come back to church while also utilizing technology to keep people connected when they are unable to be physically in community with us. Yet, our deepest resolve is to keep journeying together through this wilderness season, knowing God will be with us through the unknowns. 

So let us stay in love with God and each other and keep taking the next step together.

comments powered by Disqus