The things of this world do not seem
to be going according to plan.
For one thing, the altar’s on fire.
The pastor hasn’t notice, thinks
the audience is unusually moved by his words...
—Marci Johnson, “O That with Yonder Sacred Throng”
(in Basic Disaster Supplies Kit, 2016)
I think it’s safe to say that 2021 did not go according to plan. In January of 2021 most of us were anxiously awaiting our turn to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine shot. Now here we are, one year later, and less than 55% of individuals in Rowan County have received at least one dose of the vaccine. We’ve lived through the Delta surge of late summer and fall and watched in disbelief as the National Guard stepped into to assist our local hospital as the hospitalization numbers pushed our medical facilities to their limits. The Omicron variant is now overtaking the numbers of infected and we’re still learning more about its severity. The number of COVID-19 deaths reported in Rowan county between September and December was more than double the total number of deaths in all of 2020 and the first half of 2021 combined. And yet, everywhere you go, it’s apparent—people are tired of it all. Mask wearing has waned greatly, even though it is one tool to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and is recommended by health professionals when in public places.
How do we respond when things don’t go according to plan? I suspect some of us may be in Eeyore’s camp, saying ““End of the road. Nothing to do and no hope of things getting better.” And then there are others who don’t seemed phased a bit, as they set about constructing lemonade stands and making lemonade. Most of us are probably somewhere in between the two.
When considering human responses to adversity, Psychologists speak of resilience, of an individual’s ability to adapt to situations of tragedy, trauma, or significant stress. We have been living through an extended time of stress, which has both tested our resiliency and been an opportunity to increasing our capacity for resilience. Experts suggest there are four core areas which contribute to our levels of resilience, and that we can develop our resilience by focusing on those areas: connections, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning. (see Building Your Resilience)
Connections: Try focusing on relationships which are life-giving and affirming or joining groups which are supportive and cultivate our sense of purpose.
Wellness: In times of stress we often forget about our physical health. Paying attention to healthy eating habits, developing good sleeping patterns, moving our bodies regularly—all of these aspects of physical health can help our responses to stress. Practice mindfulness—through prayer, meditation, or journaling.
Healthy thinking: Cut out sources of negativity—try taking a break from social media. Practice gratitude—reflecting on our day or our past and identifying positive experiences can help break thought patterns of negativity.
Meaning: It may sound simple, but helping others gives us purpose and pulls us from an unhealthy focus on ourselves. Reflecting on how we have changed from an adverse experience, identifying points of growth and development, can also build our capacity for resilience.
Being part of a healthy faith community is one way to build on these four components of resilience. I invite you to take some time and reflect on this past year: In what ways have you cultivated resilience?
Who has been a part of that growth?
How has our faith community contributed to your capacity for resilience?
Is there a core component of resilience in which you’d like to focus on this year? How can we as a congregation support one another in the practice of resilience?
We’ve made it this far together, let’s see what the new year holds for us.
For this is the day we have been given; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Be well. Be kind.
And always be the church where you are.
A native of Illinois, Rev. Nancy Gowler lived for 26 years in the Pacific Northwest. She joined the ministry of First Christian Church in Morehead, KY, in July of 2020.