I walked into the sanctuary on Sunday, April 25, to attend my first in-person worship service since February 2020. For over 14 months I have been extremely cautious about being around more than just a few people and, in taking those precautions, I have missed the inner peace and comfort that comes from sitting among fellow parishioners as we gather together to worship God. Here I was back in my spiritual home. As I looked around, I realized how wonderful it is to see the actual faces of friends who had for so long only been present in the virtual world.
I sat in a socially distanced spot in a pew and, once I was situated, I looked forward and up only to marvel once again at the absolute beauty of the space in which we worship. And then I felt a strong and deep feeling of gratitude for all of the work the congregation staff, the lay leadership, and so many others have done to get us through the worst of the pandemic.
As I sat there it occurred to me my return to worship is just a small step among the many that are in front of me and the congregation as we slowly regain some momentum. Will we be able to return to what we once considered “normal?” Probably not. Is this an opportunity to decide what course the congregation should take now to live out our mission? Absolutely yes.
The LEAD team has created over the last several years through listening to the congregation and listening to our neighbors, a congregational purpose statement, a set of core values, a set of core convictions and a mission statement. When we completed that work the team realized all of these statements are very consistent with the words that have provided us direction for many years, To Love, To Invite, To Serve.
Now a new team is being formed, the Centering Team, to carry forward with these baseline statements to design the future of our congregation. Their work will include celebrating those aspects of our congregational life that bring joy, tweaking those aspects that need adjustment, adding those elements that will expand our work to fulfill our mission, and deleting those aspects that are no longer relevant. Their work will not be done in a vacuum as they will communicate regularly with the congregation and the Council for support, guidance and approval.
I am back home. The sanctuary is almost the same as it was. I am enjoying the warmth and comfort of the familiar. At the same time, I am feeling the excitement of our potential as a city congregation to make a difference as we continue to accomplish His work for us here. Thank you, God!