Rector's Blog: Church, Dead and Resurrected
I really thought we’d be back indoors by now. We saw the COVID case numbers start to dip after the holiday surge, and the vaccines started to come out, and I thought, “This is it: We’re on our way.” And we are on our way. It just keeps taking longer than I want. A spike here, a plateau there. I can get frustrated, but I can’t actually control anything other than my own actions and attitude. As for me and my house, we’ll mask up, stay distanced, get vaccinated as we’re able, and pray that the worst of this pandemic is behind us. Our siblings continue to get sick, to be hospitalized, to die. Our being tired of all this doesn’t change that. So, we pray. And we hope to do our part.
I thought we’d be back indoors by Easter. Of course, I thought we’d be back indoors by last Easter, so nobody should be making any bets based on my predictions. We are all becoming well-acquainted with disappointment during this time. But, friends, we are moving forward, we are making progress, we are not standing still.
We have seen our choir and musicians begin to regather, rehearse, record, and perform – and even with the limitations placed on them, their participation has elevated our worship together. With the weather warming up, we’ve been able to gather outdoors again, and each new week has brought more people to Ault Park for Pop-Up Church. Our high school and young adult groups have begun to meet outdoors as well. We have convened regathering groups to work out the logistics of bringing us back into the building for Rite II and Banquet worship and we are beginning to work on plans for Rite I and Celtic worship as well.
As you probably know, even pre-pandemic, managing our Sundays was a complicated task. Coming back into the building safely brings with it an additional set of complications. Your church leadership is working steadfastly to make it a positive, safe, spiritually nourishing experience for all involved. Your spiritual and physical wellbeing are foremost on our mind as we plan for our return indoors.
I get the question “When will we be back?” quite often. And it’s a fair question. The answer is never simple. In some ways, we never stopped being together: Our Bible Studies, Lenten series, formation classes, Second Half speaker series and Stephen Ministry have all been going strong from the moment we went remote. In other ways, as listed above, we are finding ways to be together in person – something that has been incredibly meaningful for those who’ve been able to participate.
But as I said the real answer to “When will we be back?” is never simple. We want to be back in our space. And beyond that, we want to take off our masks and draw near to one another and sing loud. “When will we be back?” carries so much with it. When will we be normal?
This past Sunday we heard Jesus say the words, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John the Evangelist tells us Jesus is talking about his own death – and therefore, of course, about our own deaths. But more, Jesus is talking about what needs to die for resurrection to occur. One of my mentors used to say to me, “The church is in the Resurrection business, but we keep thinking our job is Resuscitation.'
We keep thinking our job is resuscitation. Wow. We will do everything we can to keep dying things alive all the while proclaiming that death and resurrection are the truth of our lives.
There is no going back. We will re-enter the sanctuary. We will regather in person and indoors. Before you know it, we will take off our masks and draw near to one another and sing aloud. But our idea of getting back to what we had has got to fall into the earth and die. There is no unknowing what we know. Thank God. There is no acting like we are not changed. You have an idea of what “being together" is supposed to be. If you let that die, what will God resurrect in its stead?
While we are waiting for things to get back to normal, our church is making new connection and finding new ways to know God, to know Love, to know each other. I can hear Christ saying, “See I am making all things new!” I ask you today to take a few minutes and look at the Holy Week and Easter offerings of Church of the Redeemer. I ask you to go on our website and get lost and get found again in all that is happening – not just to “maintain” church until we get back to normal – but all that is happening to help you follow Jesus here and now. It is nothing like it was two years ago. It's not even like it was last year. It bears much fruit. Jesus Christ is praised in every bit of it.
There is so much hope, so much creativity, so much joy that is present and I hope you are able to see it. When I am looking for things to be what they were, I find myself disappointed. When I shift to look for what beautiful new things are emerging, the disappointment dissipates. I am overcome by God’s presence in the world as it is, rather than just how I’d like it to be.
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