It’s been rather strange lately. I shouldn’t be surprised about the deep fluctuations in the weather this year. Maybe we’ve been outside more because the fear of catching the Covid 19 virus while being indoors is strong. I have spent more time with my neighbors than I have in the past.
The church is continuing to function. Worship is changed – online and outdoor worship are taking place more and more. Actually, I’ve found that doing online services reaches more people – if even for a few minutes – than worshiping indoors. I wouldn’t give up worshiping indoors, but it’s a nice opportunity for outreach.
The weather in the church has certainly changed too. Some people like the online services, some don’t. Some people like outdoor services, some don’t. Some people try to experience indoor worship at other churches that offer them in this time. Our needs are different. You ask, “how can we be church if we are so divided?” That is a good question. How do we identify and hold onto that which defines us a “church?” I asked the question over a year ago about what does church look like now a days. Now, it is even more important to look at this and determine what that means. Gathering as we can as a larger community through different means. Does it mean enlarging our concept to include our brothers and sisters in the many different denominations? What role do the other religions play? What about people who live their lives without any kind of religious connections?
What about virtual presence? Some people find great meaning in this type of connection – Facebook, Instagram, group chats, hangouts, etc. Is the “real” connection? Well, yes, it is for some people. Can church survive or even thrive in this media? That’s the question. The whole “embodied” word and all. The physical presence of people, bread, wine, water…The touch of a handshake or a hug. Does is matter? People are different and what speaks to us differs too. We will keep working this through. We may not find the answer, but we’ll work together on this.
Most churches without indoor worship services, the almost constant wearing of masks, closed businesses, limited access to shops, online shopping, curbside pickup at restaurants, etc.
How is our spiritual life faring during this time? For some it may be a time of rebirth and the start of something new. For others time away from people is almost devastating – especially without worship in the sanctuaries as usual. Or if indoors, masks and physical distance are in play. I find it tough to change especially if there is loss involved. I’m a little slow to adapt to change or figure out what changes I need in order to feed my spirit.
There is certainly time for prayer, quiet reflection, scripture reading or other reading that fills me. We do have the technology to remain connected to each other in meaningful ways. Yeah, all of that is good, but…a good hug or warm handshake or a knowing smile does wonders.
A great deal of spiritual development occurs with other people – our interactions with them. What works for you? It’s a mixed bag.
My wife and I noticed that our daughter’s friend didn’t have a winter coat. This friend lives away from her parents. They send her half way across the country to attend our daughter’s school. This friend had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, so my wife and I decided to buy her a coat for her birthday. My daughter asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday and she responded by texting “going to the Domes and Canfora Bakery and then eating sushi.” I shared this with a couple from church while we were having coffee. They said “our daughter has a few coats that she is not using.. we’ll check and see.” They texted me later that they were at Costco and bought two coats – she could have her choice.
I contacted the bakery and mentioned that this friend wanted to visit them on her birthday. One of the owners texted back that we could come on Saturday night and watch how they make the bread for the next day. We came and immediately the two girls put on aprons and learned how to make the bread. For 2 hours they watched and participated in rolling the dough and putting the trays of dough into the steamer and then into the oven. My daughter’s friend was ecstatic. This was a wonderful gift. She even filled out a job application for part time work at the bakery. The owners of the bakery are a members of the church I serve.
I don’t know about you, but I get a little tired of hearing how “evil” the church. Yes, we can be judgmental and hypocritical among other things – we’re all part of the human race, but we can also be very caring, supportive, and loving to others as well. The coat and the bakery experience demonstrates some of the best of “church.”
There is a call to be the church in the world. This doesn’t necessarily apply to the physical structures whatever they may be. I think it broadens into the everyday lives of people. It almost has to be. Most of the members of this congregation understand the demands of the modern day worker. Long hours and long weeks – oftentimes this means 6 or 7 days a week. Rest is becoming less and less common. I wonder if everyday faith practices (however you would define them) are more “necessary” now than ever. Our staying connected to God in meaningful ways is very important. Luther once replied that the busier he was the more prayer time he needed. Our worship services are a means of connecting with God and with each other (as flawed and hypocritical as we sometimes are) in those meaningful ways. Hopefully, they are also a means of strengthening our faith and giving us a thing or two to think about in the days that follow.
We see people giving to others when they can where they can. This is good news for all of us.
I wonder how we manage to do as much as we do. There are so many possibilities in the world, so many choices to be made, so little time it seems. For instance, Ariana is in High School now and is in the midst of classes, studying, working on the stage crew, etc. As a freshman she is studying at least 3 hours a night if not more, plus weekends. We have an app/website called “Powerschool” in which teachers post the kids grades, homework assignments and more. Their grades are posted after each test and assignment. Their running cumulative grade point average is also posted. It lets us see how they are doing. However, like watching the stock market every day, it can be unnerving. It just seems like a lot more homework than I remember doing when I was freshman in high school. I don’t see the kids having much “down time” or unstructured time. It seems like we are rushing them through school and onto a career. We know that life seems to have sped up enormously in the last 2 or 3 decades. What are we rushing into? The other day I found out that Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN will be offering a 2 year MDiv program (for ordination) instead of the 4 year program that is currently in place. The 2 year program will run throughout the year – summers too. It will be free and will include the Internship in those two years. So, basically what took me 4 years will only take a new seminarian 2 years. I wonder if we are rushing the work of the Holy Spirit when we cut short the time it takes to do things. Granted the program is very selective and would be wonderful for the person who is older, who doesn’t have a lot of cash laying around, and who has been in the workforce for a while. I get back to the observation that sometimes discernment process can and should take time. Sometimes we rush through life so that we don’t really get a good taste for it. Like eating too fast…do we miss the presence, the realization or the work of the Holy Spirit? Other observations?
On September 12th at our Parent Orientation for Confirmation, we had students representing 5 different churches in the Cedarburg, Grafton and Brown Deer areas (Immanuel, Faith, Advent, St. John, and Memorial- this year we don’t have any students from Trinity). Looking out at all of us, Pastor John made the comment that it is good for us to see that the “Church” is much bigger than just one congregation. All of us who were sitting in the youth room were examples of that. How has our understanding of “Church” changed in the last 10, 20, 30+ years?
HI all, I’m very new to this Blogging thing – actually, this the first time I’ve attempted it. I hope to share some of my thoughts and ideas of ministry, theology, etc. through this medium. I hope this works well for us. It will provide us with another tool in which to communicate with each other. I still would love to see you at the Roastery on Wednesday mornings from 10 – 11:30.