This Sunday, our parish is introducing two in-person worship services for the first time in fifteen months. There is a lot about which to be excited! We will be able to worship in our beloved Historic Chapel, which was not able to be used during most of the pandemic due to structural restrictions. We will be able to sing congregationally, even if we have to keep our masks on for a little while longer. We will be able to skip registration and check-in, we can sit wherever we want (you have no idea how hard such a simple thing has been for some of our parishioners!), and we can receive communion sitting right next to other people – some people we have loved and missed for a long time and some people who are completely new to us! There are a few restrictions remaining, like masking, avoiding touch, and not being able to share a common cup, but we are okay with incremental change and so very happy for what we will get to experience this Sunday.
All that being said, you may have noticed I am being very careful to not say we are “going back to normal.” Partially that is because we are not yet fully engaging in church as we once were. And in some ways, there are permanent additions, such as livestreaming, that we never experienced pre-pandemic, that will be mainstays for us now.
But the real reason I have avoided using the term “normal,” is because I don’t want us to go back to normal. “Normal” in March 2020 meant a country deeply divided politically; neglecting, or downright oppressing, immigrants, the impoverished, women, and the LGBTQ community; and a deep unwillingness to talk about systemic racism. Even our church was unwilling to fully embrace digital discipleship and evangelism. I am not interested in returning to that kind of “normal.”
And so, although it may seem like semantics, we are introducing worship in a new way. We are modeling all the goodness of things we once knew, and hopefully letting go of some of the things that needed to be let go. We are holding fast to the things we loved during this pandemic – connecting to people who are far away, helping the less mobile feel a part of the community, and encouraging connection, even when the service times do not match your schedule. And we are coming out on the other end as something different – with the same core values and passions – but expressed in a different way. And for now, that, as God said in creation, is very good!