Semper Gumby, indeed (although my Latin teacher might argue for semper flexibile). Just a few weeks ago in July we were planning for a very different fall. Singing masks were purchased for our church choir, we were beginning to discuss ways to open our building up again for community events, and we thought the worst of the pandemic was behind us. And today, as I write this, there is an emergency field hospital unit set up in the parking lot at St. Claire Regional Medical Center to process patients as the medical facility is straining to care for patients.
The Returning to Worship committee made the difficult decision to resume virtual worship services beginning on August 15. At the time it seemed we were alone in this assessment. Although we know many congregations in our area are continuing to meet in person, the ecumenical guidelines on safely gathering indoors for worship services recommend a more cautious approach. Now other Disciples congregations in our region are also reverting to virtual worship services. We will continue to monitor the conditions in our county as we consider when we are meeting the benchmarks to offer in-person worship safely.
Whether we asked for it or not, the pandemic is offering opportunities for rethinking church, faith, and spiritual formation. We’ve always said the church was not limited to an hour on Sunday morning, now we are living out what that might look like in practice. This September we will again be celebrating the Season of Creation. Our worship services will provide inspiration for us to do more reflection on our own relationships with creation. I hope you will find ways to engage with the Season of Creation art exhibition, either on-line or in person. Together we can celebrate Creation not only in words, but also in deeds, putting into practice the spiritual wisdom of our faith tradition to care for the earth.
We tend to focus on the limitations of the moment—what’s not open, what’s not safe, what we have given up in this pandemic. In the spirit of flexibility, can we ask different questions?
What is opening up for you now?
What can you embrace in this time?
What doors are open now?
As you reflect on the possibilities of this time, stop to give thanks for the unexpected blessings you’ve discovered and for the previously overlooked gifts of the past 18 months. And remember—God is good. All the time.
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.