Recently, I was referring to a movie that had come out just a few years ago, and when I went to IMDB it, I discovered it was released in 2007. That sounds about right. 2007 was just a few years ago. 1995 was about a decade ago. Time and the passage of time is all relative, and the older I get, the faster it seems to go.
Pandemic time is another beast entirely. Somehow, pandemic time has seemed to slow down rather than speed up. Something that happened in 2018 or 2019 feels like it happened a few years ago, but a similar event from 2020 feels like it happened in some deep recesses of time. There have been moments when I’ve forgotten what day, what month, and even what season we’re in. Times when I’ve honestly struggled to remember whether a conversation I had took place a few days earlier or a month ago.
So much has happened in our world, in our lives, and we’ve missed the opportunity to share those milestones and experiences together. Many things that seemed easier to put off until after the pandemic was over just haven’t happened. We’ve been adjusting and readjusting so often, all while trying to navigate towards something that we might now call normal, even as we recognize the impossibility of return to the way things used to be.
The pandemic has upended and disrupted so many industries, social institutions, and support networks. The church is certainly among those. Many churches adapted by moving services online, one way or another, while others just pressed pause, resuming in-person gatherings as soon as was allowed.
It hasn’t been easy for anyone. Pastors are part of “the Great Resignation,” though hardly alone in it. For the first time ever(?) the Church Leadership Connection (the online matching service for the PC(USA)) has more positions in the system than individuals who are actively seeking calls. We’ve been hearing for years about the great pastor shortage on the horizon, and now we’re starting to see it.
There have been some big blessings during this time. We’ve welcomed a number of people to worship regularly - primarily online - who otherwise would not have the opportunity to join in person. For those who have compromised immune systems, church has always been a potentially dangerous petrie dish. Online church is more accessible for those individuals, for others who live with or care for more vulnerable populations, and for some who just can’t make it, for one reason or another.
I can’t sing enough the praises of our amazing tech team and volunteers, our musicians and singers, our Building and Grounds folks who have been working overtime, and our COVID Task Force. Many of you have still been connecting through marks groups, house churches, seasonal teams, or other teams, even if you aren’t here on Sunday mornings.
However, for those who have been less connected, it has been a very long two years. Two years of missing worship without access to or comfort with navigating online worship. Many have had health challenges or the kinds of changes that often come with age, making the in-person opportunities that we have impossible to attend. Families with school aged children are not ok. For some, yet another online thing - even if it is worship - just feels like too much. A number of our members live in retirement communities that have had various levels of lock-down and isolation from visitors - even those on the inside. It has been two years without seeing familiar faces, and getting to check in with each other at church.
Through all of this, we have continued to be church, in ways that are inspiring to me on a regular basis. Our mission and outreach has not abated. You all have shown care and love for each other, checking in, praying, bringing meals, and otherwise supporting each other. The Pastoral Care team and Gwen have been extending congregational care to many more people. When we were in the hiring process that brought Gwen to Trinity, very aware that COVID had changed everything, Gwen wisely said, “I don’t think we’ve even begun to see all of the ramifications in people’s lives.”
So much has happened - and you all have done so much - often with decreasing levels of energy and resilience. I’m not sure I know anyone who hasn’t struggled with at least some situational depression or anxiety. Our bodies and spirits were not made for this kind of living. It takes a toll.
It’s astounding to me to think that it has been 2 full years since many of us have seen each other in person. In the beginning, we ramped up even more to check in on members, assess needs, and try to respond. Two years in, I’m hit with a new wave of grief over all that has been lost.
As we enter year three of this global pandemic, how are you doing? How is your soul? Your family? Your health and wellbeing? Do you have unmet needs that the church might help in meeting? Are you feeling disconnected? We want to hear from you. If you’re doing ok, that’s great. Maybe you can check in with Gwen or me if you have specific supports you can offer (transportation, meals, visiting, serving on the tech team or elsewhere). I also invite everyone to send at least one note this month to someone who you’ve missed seeing in church. Or make a phone call, or schedule a visit. The needs for connection are far greater than any person or team can fulfill, but we are the body of Christ - incomplete and underfunctioning unless we are all taking our role in the body.
I have hope, always, because we worship a God of resurrection and new life. I have hope because this body of Christ continues to follow in Christ’s footsteps in love and action. I’m hopeful as we start this Lenten season, journeying towards the cross that leads to death - and abundant new life.
Grace and Peace,