From the Pastor…

Every conversation I have these days with my friends who are also pastors has at least two subjects. One, the most obvious, is, what are you doing to keep your people connected and maintain worship and ministries during the pandemic?

The second is, what do you think your church will be like when we return to “normal,” whatever that is and whenever it comes?

Every conversation is tinged with some level of anxiety and apprehension about what this lengthy period of necessary separation will do to the collective lives of congregations. (And I should note that these feelings are as present among those who have attempted to return to conventional inside worship as it is among those who continue to be more restrictive.)

Here are some of the questions to which none of us currently have the answers:

Will some people have become so disconnected from their fellow church members that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for them to reenter congregational life?

Will others who have chosen not to worship in any way, either virtually or in person, have gotten so out of the habit of church involvement that they will not return?

In the time before a return to “normal,” will the restrictions on worship (e.g., no congregational singing, social distancing, limited time of exposure) be so discouraging that, by the time those protocols are no longer necessary, some will have just given up on worship?

Will others find that the convenience of worshiping from home has become so attractive that they prefer it to in person worship?

As I say, none of us knows the answer to any of these questions. Only time will tell. However, in these days when “mitigation” is used so frequently to describe what we can do to limit the effects of Covid, I’d like to suggest some ways that we can mitigate the negative effects on the life of the Church.

  1. Recognize that God is in control of the body of Christ on earth, the Church. Through God’s power it has seen and overcome far worse than what we are now facing. Despair is a commodity that we not only cannot afford, but that is a violation of our trust in God. We have to believe that the Church will survive and thrive because that is now, as it always has been, God’s desire. Shape and practice may change, but substance will not.
  2. Remain as connected with your family of faith as possible in this interim time. Right now Parkway is seeking to continue congregational worship through outdoor services. Some are, understandably, unable to attend. My personal experience has been that, except for those with underlying conditions, the protocols we have in place have made infection at these services less likely than at indoor worship, but no gatherings these days are completely safe. Use your own best judgment about whether you should attend. But if you don’t, please worship each weekend. We will continue to provide interactive worship material for as long as necessary. 
  3. Join us for the Midweek Prayer Service. This is one of the best ways I know to check in with other members, to know those who have particular needs, and to feel connected to the family. To be on Zoom, this meeting feels surprisingly intimate and real.
  4. Maintain personal spiritual practices. Congregational worship is not the only way we honor God. Private meditation and prayer, individual worship or with family, and Bible study are practices in which all of us need to continue to be engaged. We may not be receiving as much encouragement in this regard since we haven’t been gathering weekly to remind one another. Let’s continue to engage in spiritual practices that are especially needed during these challenging times.
  5. Stay in touch. Probably all of us took the ability to see each other for granted when we gave no thought to congregating. We just showed up and saw one another. You may only have reached out when there was someone whom you hadn’t seen for a while. Now that applies to a lot of people. Phone calls right now can mean a lot.
  6. Live in the time we have been given. I like a phrase in Ephesians 5:16 as it is translated in the King James Version: “Redeeming the time, for the days are evil.” The James King Version would be something like, “Making the most of whatever time you have, no matter how bad things seem to be.” We aren’t called simply to tread water until the virus goes away. This may be a time with greater opportunities for reflection and introspection. We may be getting prepared for a great awakening in the Christian Church. But whether that happens or not, this is the time in which we have been called to live. Let’s make the most of it.