Hope During a Pandemic
One year ago, the news outlets I follow started reporting about a coronavirus that was causing major sections of China to shut down. There was a lot of speculation from experts about the impact this new coronavirus could have worldwide. Then the dominoes started to fall. Cruise ships were rerouted and docked. Cities issued stay at home orders. Images out of Italy and New York were a warning to the rest of us about what was coming - that we needed to "flatten the curve".
February is our twelfth consecutive month of using video conferencing for worship. We are seeing what happens in the life of a congregation when all of the relationships within it are suddenly long distance relationships. We are seeing the long term effects for the individuals and the group when we can't physically get into one room together at the same time.
Here is some of what I'm noticing...
Since we aren't all sharing the same physical space together, we aren't having a collective experience of church. Your experience is unique and distinct based on your environment. For instance, in-person there is an interplay between the sounds and vibrations of the musical instruments, your own voice, and the voice of others to create a feeling of one-ness. Over video conferencing, your experience of the music depends on the sound of your device, the bandwidth of your wifi, and whatever else is happening in your space. We don't have a unified, collective experience of worship together. The same is true for all other gatherings: classes, meetings, and fellowship.
As a result, I'm seeing miscommunication, confusion, dischord, mistrust, and discomfort... All of these feelings are what we go to church to experience relief from! Worship, classes, fellowship, and even business meetings are meant to cultivate comfort, trust, harmony and clarity.
There's a sense that if we can just get back to "normal", everything will be okay... that we'll get to return to what's familiar.
I have some bad news on that front. We are forever changed by this year - individually and collectively. Will we once again get to enjoy the interplay between the sounds and vibrations of the musical instruments, our own voices, and the voices of others to create a feeling of one-ness? Yes. Will it be the same as it was one year ago? No.
The good news? Our hope does not have to depend upon a return to something we had before. Our hope must rest in the promise of all that is possible when we gather again - as one strong body.
Until then, be patient with yourself and others. Muster up as much grace as you can. Release yourself from any expectations based on life before this pandemic. We're getting through it - one breath at a time, one hour a time, one day at a time.