From the Pastor's Pen
Quite a few people are offering commentaries around the theme “post-pandemic x will not be the same as pre-pandemic x.” They’re probably right. The world has changed. Some of the changes could have been predicted. Some were quite overdue. Some were painful. Some things I had hoped might change stubbornly refused to.
I think it’s going to take some time before we realize just how many things have, in fact, transformed over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the very least, it’s going to take some time for everything that was upturned to settle back into a place and give us a sense of the shifted landscape. That settling will take even longer if a large number of folks continue to refuse to get vaccinated against the virus.
I spend a lot of worry looking at our attendance, our participation, our giving, and our ongoing ministries and wondering exactly where and when that settling will happen. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason to expect that any of those things will come back up to a level we saw before the pandemic. After all, several of the ministries that we prided ourselves on were already facing considerable challenges before the world shut down. What happens to them now that they have been paused for more than a year?
I won’t begin to suggest that we are in a uniquely troubling situation at First Bristol. Most churches face very similar challenges to ours. We are not alone, and we should not act like we are alone. We are, after all, United Methodists. We exist and thrive in connection. We do our most powerful work not when we are standing on our own, but when we are partnering with our siblings across the Missional Hub, across the District, across the Conference, and across the globe. Maybe what we need to grab onto is a revitalized sense of that connection, a partnering with other folks who have similar missional foci and passions.
It is my sincere hope and prayer that First Bristol retain and grow our missional heritage. That is more exciting to me than any other single characteristic of our church. We have a strong practice of reaching out in active compassion to our community that rivals what – oh, I don’t know – 80% of other churches do. Gosh, that’s probably a low estimate. I can’t imagine how one might measure that.
I hope that’s something you treasure, too. I hope you’ll be part of it. I hope you’ll help rebuild. I hope you’ll help us connect with the missional opportunities you’re passionate about.
That’s how we’re going to come out of the pandemic a healthy church, I think. That’s how we can differentiate ourselves from everybody else who is still doing worship and going online and offering Bible studies and learning Zoom and Google Meets and whatever else.
We are a missional church. Let’s reclaim that heritage.