On Mother’s Day Sunday, May 9, we will gather again as a church family in our beautiful sanctuary. Some of you have asked, “Why May?” There are two reasons for this. First, the beautiful, much-needed renovation of the sanctuary floor will be done at the end of April. Second, we wanted to ensure that our young(ish) clergy and staff, as well as the majority of our congregation, had access to the vaccine to ensure that everyone remains as safe, comfortable, and healthy as possible.
Friends, as we ready ourselves to worship together in person, and as we are cautiously optimistic that indeed a new season is on the horizon, I want to share with you a few thoughts.
In our eagerness to “put this behind us,” I fear we risk losing who we have become and what we have learned during this time. For better or for worse, after more than a year of living through a pandemic, we have learned that many of the models we used previously no longer apply, we’ve learned that many of the benchmarks are no longer valid, that the trend analyses have been interrupted. And we have been reminded that the quantitative measures of “butts in the pews and bucks in the plate” were established by humans, not ordained by God. The number of lives we touched during this time is, quite literally, immeasurable. We cannot go back to the old ways, but rather, we must move forward with this new information, figuring out ways to incorporate it into a new way of being.
When we return to church, we will each be returning with a history that we need to acknowledge, identify, and make sense of. We will need to do a lot of listening so that stories can be told – the good, the bad, and the ugly – the truth. We will need to set judgement aside and listen to one another with open hearts. Though we have lived through a shared experience, your story is not my story, and my understanding is not necessarily the same as your understanding. So, when we gather together, let us remember that “love is patient and kind … it always protects, always trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Love never fails.” Let us approach one another in love, recognizing we are no longer the same people or community we were in March 2020. It’s going to take some time – let’s give that gift to one another…loving each other into this new season.
As I have said many times over the last year, “the building may have closed, but the Church remained wide open.” I understand that many have missed the solemnity of the sanctuary, and I do not underestimate that longing, but I am also 100% sure that more than the bricks and mortar of 814 Asylum Ave, we have missed each other!
So, as one of your pastors and someone who loves you dearly, I implore you to:
- Create open spaces for all to feel comfortable expressing themselves. And the more creative we can be, the better! None of us needs to be “fixed.” We need the tools and the space and the time to nurture resilience and adjust to a post pandemic world.
- Resist our temptation to “get back to normal.” While returning to “normal” might seem more comfortable, it is impossible to recreate what was, even if we wanted to. Instead, this past year offers us a wonderful opportunity to envision together what is possible and needed, even if it might feel intimidating and unfamiliar at times.
- Roll up your sleeves and get ready for the juicy and messy work (think pomegranates) of forging a new tomorrow.
Remember, the Spirit did not stop doing good work this year – in fact I have heard many say they have been more aware of God showing up for them throughout the pandemic than ever before. This may not have been in the ways we are accustomed to experiencing – and I see that that as a fantastic gift!
Friends, let us go forth in the days to come remembering the love that never fails. By doing so, I believe we will achieve more than any one of us ever thought possible. It’s been an unimaginable year in so many ways, and I hope and pray that the year to come will also hold more mystery, awe, and creativity than we can imagine.
Peace and Love!
Rev. Erica Thompson