It was not quite a year ago that I was writing a newsletter article about my reflections on the churches and sacred spaces I had visited in the UK on my 2019 vacation. How they had become mostly tourist attractions instead of places of worship. I shared my concerns about the future of the American “Church”. I gave voice to my steadfast conviction that the Church is not buildings, but the people of God, called and united by God’s Spirit, redeemed by Christ Jesus, to bring hope and healing into the world. I encouraged that the ancient, sacred places that needed to be protected were within us.
I wondered and asked the questions, “What does the faithful practice of worship and discipleship look like now? What should it look like? Should we close all of our big buildings and meet in small house churches? Do we stop offering Sunday School, bible studies, youth or children’s programs because people don’t come? Or do press more fervently and deeply into the gaps? How do we re-imagine church that creates sacred space for people who don’t trust “church”? What is your dream for the “Church”?”
I couldn’t have known, wouldn’t have believed how important those questions would be, are, right now. In an era of pandemic, we have become our own version of a nomadic community. We meet online. We’re trying to figure out how to be together while we are apart. We have an entirely different context for the question, “What does the faithful practice of worship and discipleship look like now?”
I’m not sure how to answer those questions. We’re going to have to work those out together with grace and patience. I do know this; people need the good news of Jesus Christ more than ever. Our communities need to see the hands and feet of Jesus (that’d be us) doing good where ever and however we can. As we work toward re-imagining “Church” in the time of pandemic and cultural upheaval, we have to remember we’re in it for the long haul. Bishop Schnase cautions us (the clergy) that we are not preparing to handle a blizzard. We’re preparing for winter, and all the things the season might hold.
I take comfort in this: I am grateful to face all of these things with you, the family of Edinburg First United Methodist Church. You are wise. You are courageous. You are strong. You are generous. You are beautiful, brilliant, and diverse. You are more than resilient. You are the children of God.
Grace and Peace,