Many of us are in a hurry to return to normal, and there are signs all around us of some kind of return. When I went to Fry’s this past week, for example, I noted that the vast majority, for better or worse, were not wearing masks. It looked almost like old times.
As Pastor Dick and I begin preparations for in-person worship again, we have frequently mused over the idea that what was once normal in our churches may never quite be so again—not like it is at Fry’s anyway. We know that we are still facing struggles (even though we are getting some things replaced and patched up around our campus that were long overdue). Will people return to church again, we wonder? Or is worshipping on-line and in our pajamas more comfortable? Have new routines replaced old ones?
Episcopal priest, Stephanie Spellers is a leading thinker on change and growth in the church, and she sees the current challenges of church and society as a way of God “cracking open” people for greater possibility. In commenting on her work, Richard Rohr expressed the typical, churchgoer mindset: “Americans and church folks have been tempted to replace, destabilize and re-center. Let’s return to the building. Let’s reestablish majority American Christianity in its former, privileged cultural post.” Yet, he admits that God may indeed be doing a new thing out of the present unraveling. Alen J. Roxburgh in his book Joining God, Remaking Church, and Changing the World: The New Shape of the Church in Our Time says that American Christianity’s malaise may even be the work of God, nudging us on to something new. He writes, “A church that has been humbled by disruption and decline may be a less arrogant and presumptuous church. It may have fewer illusions about its own power and centrality. It may finally admit how much it needs the true power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. That’s a church God can work with.”
My prayer is that God is at work doing something new and great in our humble little church. Normal really wasn’t working well anyway. I am reminded of the verse Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Join me in praying for God’s in-breaking and a future at CCOV UCC characterized by something far greater than normal!