Peace and blessings. I have been wondering what to say to you, now. In a nation uneasy, uncertain and yes, even afraid.
As I look out my window and see once-bustling streets, quiet like I’m watching the opening credits of a horror movie, I wonder what to say to you. In this moment of unprecedented firsts, quarantine orders, and daily presidential briefings, I wonder what to say to you. Now. Now, that the world has all of its attention on a big virus with a big name:
I wonder because we have certainly been through a lot in a little time. In the span of what feels like just weeks, we have a dangerous virus spread from a regional problem overseas to a continental problem, to one that only affected the coasts of our country, to now a pandemic that is even affecting the heartland.
We have seen our neighbors affected and infected by this virus. We’ve seen businesses and schools and even restaurants shuttered. We have had to cancel concerts, and conferences, and sporting events.
And as usual, we as the Church have adapted to these changes. We have rolled up our sleeves to provide direct services—sustenance, funds, and counseling—to those individuals who are profoundly in need of help.
We are opening the sanctuaries and basements of our church buildings to provide shelter to the homeless and the marginalized of our communities.
We are leaving the quiet and comfortable confines of our church buildings to meet people In their homes to minister to them in spirit and in truth.
We are caring more. We are loving more. We are reaching more. It’s unprecedented, and we really never seen anything like this before.
We have even adapted the way we worship. Where we were having long ornate worship services steeped in religiosity, we are now worshipping with a few believers, a camera, a song, a prayer, and the Word of God.
No stoles, no candles, no worship bulletins, no “we’ve always done it that ways.”
And at some point, this will pass. We know this because we are faithful people and we have seen God work and move us through many troubled times—American Slavery. Segregation. The Black Plague and other pandemics.
“And when we overcome this, the same way God brought us through the other trouble and times, it will be the temptation, the urge, for us to move back and slide back to where we had been as a church … To serve the same way we have been, to interact with people the same way we had been, to even worship the same way we have been.
But, Beloved, we simply cannot go back. We cannot go back to the way things used to be as the Church.
This virus has illustrated to us our mission as a Church in very simple terms. It has shown us the needs of the marginalized and disinherited, and given us a blueprint for responding to their cries for help in a Christlike manner. It has even shown us that many of the things we do in the name of “worship” and “religion,” are superfluous.
In fact, while we are using technology to worship and serve in this time, this church looks a great deal like the 1st-century church where believers worshipped in living rooms and took care of their neighbors.
This is a Church Jesus is pleased with. And we can’t go back.