First, Friends, the news that perhaps we haven’t wanted to accept: Life as we knew it has changed. And it’s never going to go back to the way it used to be.
I don’t mean that we’ll always be living in this weird pandemic place where it feels unsafe to be inside with other people. My August was spent reading article after article about the latest knowledge about covid-19, including the emerging variants, and I didn’t find any reason from an informed source to worry about that. It is expected that covid will become endemic, like the flu, but it will eventually stop being a source of worry in our lives.
But the pandemic forced us out of the “boxes” we were living in, and assumptions had to go by the wayside. The assumption, for example, that the best way for businesses to run was for all of their employees to drive to the same location and work all at the same time. We’ve learned that while that might be true for some, others are more effective working from home, maybe taking a walk midday, starting work early in the morning, or doing more of their work at night.
I believe it will be years before we fully see the societal shifts that have occurred because of the pandemic. Conferences have been held online, more educational opportunities now have online components, and even families have become more technologically competent, scheduling regular zoom calls with grandma.
And then there’s church … even before the pandemic, we were on our way to becoming a multi-platform church. Several of our teams already held our meetings on zoom, the Board meeting was livestreamed for anyone who wanted to attend, and we had been livestreaming — however clunkily – the Sunday sermon.
The genie is out of the bottle. And that’s great! I believe one of those overarching societal shifts we’ll see is that having been freed from our “boxes,” we will have a greater understanding of how different we all are. There is opportunity here, if we are wise, to be able to craft lives that allow us to increase our effectiveness, our wholeness, and to have more fulfilling lives.
We are different. That’s a feature, not a bug.
I have shared for years my view that the purpose of church is to gather us together to strengthen our souls, and send us out to strengthen the world. In 1866, Unitarian James Freeman Clarke wrote it more succinctly as “getting good and doing good.”
“We think it possible to have a Church, and even a denomination, organized, not on a creed, but on a purpose of working together. Suppose that the condition of membership was the desire and intention of getting good and doing good. The members of a church are not those who unite in order to partake the Lord’s Supper, but to do the Lord’s work. The Lord’s Supper is their refreshment after working…Let them sit together, express their desires, confess their faults, say what they have been trying to do, where they have failed, where succeeded, and so encourage each other to run with diligence the race set before them.”
September 19, we move to a way of gathering that is wholly new to all of us. I have never done outdoor church, with or without the online component. But we are moving forward with the conviction that at Live Oak, we provide multiple ways for members to stay connected, so that together, we can become better people and be better equipped to do good in the world.
As REM sang, “it’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” Better than fine. I am filled with enthusiasm and wonder for what we might do together. The boxes we were living in are gone, and now is the time to dream, to experiment, to take risks, and to find new and exciting ways of living our mission.
Have a wild idea? Let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org