by Carole Duff
Let the Church say, “Amen.”
As with many churches and schools across the United States in mid-March 2020, our Church and Early Childhood Education Center closed “for two weeks or until further notice” due to concerns about COVID-19. In his letter to the congregation, Pastor made the following points:
- We live by faith, in the love God has for us through His son, and not in fear.
- Our faith is our witness; we take care of neighbors and don’t endanger them.
- Our witness expresses faithfulness; we obey authorities as long as they do not ask us to disobey God.
And the Church said, “Amen.” Because our congregation is blessed with up-to-date technology and a dedicated team, Pastor livestreamed Sunday morning services from the empty sanctuary. Soon the Early Childhood Education Center reopened as an essential service for working families. Surely, we’d be back to in-person worship, too, at least by Palm Sunday or Easter, we thought. But no.
And yet there was fear and confusion.
It wasn’t until May 2020 when we gathered again to worship together—cautiously. Outside at first, masked for the most part, physically distanced, and sanitized. When COVID-19 surged in the fall, we went back to virtual services, with cautious participation by the worship team and elders. We would not return to in-person until after vaccinations became readily available in the spring of 2021. Then, some members of the congregation returned; some continued to watch from home; some chose to leave.
Uncertainty had taken its toll. There was fear. We lost a member to the pandemic then two more then another. All were elderly with underlying health issues, the most vulnerable to COVID-19. The desire to gather with family and denial of risk overruled their concerns. They did not wish to spend their limited time alone.
There was also confusion and dissension—mask or no mask, get vaccinated or not—and disagreement about how to take care of others without endangering them. Mixed messages from authorities and the media added to the confusion. A well-known Spanish saying, se obedece pero no se cumple—one obeys, but one does not comply—pretty much sums up the attitude many adopted, having to rely on their own discernment as to what constituted obedience at any given time. In the nation and within our congregation, we were not always kind or patient with one another regarding compliance interpretations.
And yet there were opportunities.
This has been a time of trial and testing. Uncertainty offered the opportunity for those who wanted to change congregations to do so more easily. In our case, we gained in-person members and lost a few. Those who didn’t feel comfortable worshiping in-person as yet, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, continued to watch the livestreamed or recorded services. Those who wanted to worship with our church but no longer or never lived in the area also joined virtually. We gained new viewers from all around the world.
As a member of the worship team’s music ministry, I sensed a renewed dedication to our mission: Sharing the Love and Life of Jesus Christ With All! I also sensed more concerted efforts to be gentler with one another in our differences, and to put the Church before individual preferences. I believe we gained a deeper understanding of what divine dependence, divine identity, and divine purpose means, as in Pastor’s points from March 2020.
We live by faith, not fear. Our faith is our witness. Our witness expresses faithfulness.
Let the Church say, “Amen.” Amen.
Carole Duff is a veteran teacher, flutist, and writer of narrative nonfiction. She posts weekly to her long-standing blog Notes from Vanaprastha, has written for The Perennial Gen, Streetlight Magazine’s Blog, and Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog. She is working on a book titled Wisdom Builds Her House: A Memoir About Finding Grace in the Third Stage of Life. Carole lives in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband Keith Kenny, also a writer, and three overly-friendly dogs. You can find her website here, and her Twitter feed here.
We’re talking church this month, and you’re invited to join us in this important conversation! Click here to learn more about our upcoming Voices of Valor Zoom event, slated for 1/14.