I like schedules, timelines, and routines. They give me a sense of rhythm that provides me with direction and comfort. I don’t want you to think that I don’t also value flexibility and spontaneity; there is a time and place for that, too. However, as a general operating principle, I prefer to know what I have done, where I am, and where I am going. The lost rhythm and routine has probably been one of the hardest things for me during this pandemic and this is most obvious on Sunday mornings.
The way we worshipped as a congregation came to a quick and sudden end on March 17th, as we closed our doors for ten weeks and developed new ways to fulfill the vision of connecting to Christ and community. Each week brought new challenges and as we moved from Lent to Holy Week to Easter, we had to react, adapt, and create on the spur of the moment. David, Joy, and Newman were fantastic and went far and above the call of duty in their efforts to fulfill their ministries at Church of Our Saviour. It was sometimes chaotic and confusing, but they managed to work and laugh through the difficulties. Thanks to their hard work and your support, I believe we have come to a place and time where we can breathe, take a step back and develop a sense of rhythm and routine over the next couple of months.
The temptation is to want to return to the familiar and to ask, “When do we go back to the way it was?” The answer is in two parts: the first is dealing with the physical situation and the second is dealing with the spiritual reality of what has and is currently unfolding. Physically, there is still so much caution we must exercise. We have all seen the recently reported increase in number of Covid-19 cases in our state, so I just want to be abundantly cautious as we proceed each day.
“RE:Connect” has become the name of our Sunday service offered at 10 am with congregants participating online or in person. We will continue to livestream the service for those who wish to remain home or are unable to attend. This has been a real blessing and worth every inch of cable and new software installed. We have instituted all recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control for churches and required by our diocese for public worship. I don’t foresee the requirement of wearing masks, employing social distancing, and the liberal use of hand sanitizer changing this summer. We will continue to offer one service through the summer and follow the current liturgy format, offer communion in one kind at the end of the service, and have the Eucharist available after the service for those who choose to worship at home.
The second part of my answer to, “When can we go back to the way it was?” is to explain in the words of Joseph in Genesis 50:20, that the Covid-19 outbreak is evil and Satan is using it to bring about chaos, but God is at work and will use this for his glory. I believe this with every fiber of my being and I believe God is trying to get the church’s attention. He has sent us into the wilderness so that we can see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly day by day.
This means that we must spend time with him in prayer, fasting, and discernment and I believe that he has given a time such as this so that we can dedicate ourselves to this task. We must not focus on the destination, but on the journey and offer to him as a living sacrifice our selves, our church, and our community. I believe what we are experiencing is not just a generational event, but a cosmic event that is meant to prepare God’s creation for His kingdom to come. I believe this is a time of reformation that will lead to a revival of the Holy Spirit in our church, our community, the nation, and the world.
As much as I would like to go back to a familiar time of comfort and predictability, I don’t see a return to “the way things were.” There will be some things we will cling to, some things we will hold loosely, and some things we will leave behind. If you ask me what each of those things are, I would say, “God has not fully revealed to me the answer to that question.” I am in daily prayer and conversation about these things and in August the vestry and ministers will gather to have a retreat to focus on our journey. I ask that you continue to pray for the clergy, ministers and vestry and to begin to pray for our retreat.
Specifically I ask that you commit to praying daily for three things:
That Church of Our Saviour will be able to take a breath and develop a worshipful rhythm and routine while we are in the wilderness and to connect in a deeper way to Christ.
That Church of Our Saviour will begin to discern and respond to how God is calling, shaping, and equipping us in the wilderness to grow in our commitment to connect to the community and make disciples who make disciples.
That Church of Our Saviour will trust and follow him more and more as he leads us into the promised land even though we may not know how long it will take or what it may look like.
I can’t help but think of Abram in Genesis 12 as our role model in the wilderness. God says to Abram, “go to a land that I will show you.” In the fourth verse, it simply states in the ESV, that Abram went as the Lord told him. No questions, no timeline, no schedule was given. Abram’s (and family) life became suddenly very different, but he simply believed and obeyed and that was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).
Covid-19 is an awful, evil virus, but God is at work in the midst of it and is calling us to a land that he will show us—maybe not today, tomorrow, or next month, but let us follow Abram’s example and follow him into the wilderness. Let us not be tempted to look for comfort in schedules, timelines, and routines. Let us not strive to return to the way it was, but to find our rest in our Lord who as it says in Jeremiah 29:11, “has plans for us, plans for our welfare and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope.” Let us go forth into the wilderness rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!