Time to Push the Reset Button
Remember the days when airplanes had to circle the airport for a while prior to landing? That image is analogous to how most of us have been feeling during COVID—living life in a holding pattern until it’s safe to resume “normal” activities. That is certainly true for churches for whom week-to-week activities still do not look anything like they did at the beginning of 2020.
But change is in the air. As people are vaccinated by the tens of thousands daily, and more restaurants open their dining rooms and more schools hold in-person classes, there is a growing anticipation that the end of the pandemic is closer. We can feel it in the air and hear it in conversations.
What are you looking forward to?
A recent IPSOS poll found that most Americans are looking forward to not thinking about COVID or social distancing (74%). A close second is not having to wear a mask anymore (72%). Sixty-two percent say they are excited to see family and friends outside of their household. Fifty-six percent are looking forward to going on holiday trips. Only 7% of Americans are currently going on holiday trips and 15% are going on day trips. Add birthdays, weddings, indoor theaters, and large sporting events to the list of activities to be resumed at the end of the pandemic.
I wanted to know what the ordinary person “on the street” is looking forward to so I conducted an informal poll of my own—stopped people out walking during lunch and asked them what they are anticipating when the pandemic is over. The responses I received mirrored the IPSOS poll for the most part. The people with whom I spoke are looking forward to traveling again, spending time with family and friends, and not wearing masks when the pandemic is over. The most interesting response came from a man who said he is looking forward to a “decent dinner with real saltshakers.”
What are churches looking forward to?
Well attended worship services. No roped-off pews or rows in the worship center. No masks. Seeing smiles and other facial expressions. Handshakes. Hugs. Singing songs without sounding like you’re singing a solo. Passing the offering plate again. Wait! I went too far. Passing the plate may be the last thing to come back . . . if at all! Thankfully, most people have transitioned to giving in other ways.
The end of COVID (or at least some sort of “All Clear” announcement) is an opportunity for churches to press the RESET button. It will provide a chance to celebrate all that is good about church. And for those who have questioned the relevance of some church activities for a long time, COVID may provide the chance to let them die.
I can’t remember a time when churches have had such an opportunity to “begin again.” Maybe when a new pastor arrives but that is individual congregations. ALL churches have struggled somehow in the last fourteen months. What an opportunity for churches to renew their commitment to their calling to demonstrate God’s love and mercy in their community! Coming soon is the time to SEIZE THE DAY! We’ve been given the permission to land this plane. As we circle around one last time and line up with the runway, let’s land this baby!
Do you have plans for the end of COVID?
If you are a church leader, have you given any thought to how your church will take advantage of this opportunity to do something that truly presses the RESET button? Are you just looking forward to a return to “normalcy” assuming that will happen eventually as current restrictions go away? Do you have plans for the end of COVID?
One challenge in making plans for the end of this pandemic is knowing when that end comes. It will not be like an end to fighting at the end of a war—an official announcement on a particular day. More likely the end will come slowly and at different times for different communities. There may not be a grand celebration like July 4, a day when everyone pulls out all the stops to pivot from the cloud of the past year to the sunshine of a brighter future. Even so, we can and should celebrate the end of the worst times any of us can remember.
Daniel Webster of dictionary and Revolutionary period fame once said when sailors have been through a rough storm at sea in which they did well just to survive, when the storm is over, they get out their sextant and other directional instruments and set their course as it was originally set. They get back on course. The church is nearing the end of the COVID storm. The time is right to get back on course . . . as determined by our “instrument,” the New Testament.
“How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.”Anne Frank
Call to Action
Now is the time for church leaders whether lay or clergy to plan a celebration of the end of the pandemic. That can either be a full-bore resumption of all church activities as they were in January, 2020, or a fresh opportunity to demonstrate to your community that your church is here to serve them. Instead of gathering as many people as possible in worship (which you will do anyhow), why not mobilize your people to serve people in need in your community? Why not show your community that the God you worship every weekend is a God who loves them and sent you to show them? Why not demonstrate the grace of God by sharing it with people who need it desperately?
How are you going to take advantage of the opportunity the end of the pandemic will bring? Are you talking to your congregation about what the church can do to capitalize on this unique situation later in the summer or fall? We at the Inasmuch ministry can help you “seize the day” this year.