I’ll be glad to see the end of 2020. January and February were standard form, but from then on, it’s been pretty much awful. I’m happy to say good-bye and good riddance to 2020. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass!”
But a new calendar year is on the horizon and a new liturgical year has already begun. And while I’m praying and hoping that Advent will help me to turn a proverbial page, both psychologically and spiritually, I know that I dare not miss this year end opportunity to give thanks for the rich insights and new learnings that have been gifted to us in the midst of an admittedly miserable time.
In the last nine months I have learned that:
Our church has a much greater capacity to change than I ever thought imaginable. We pivoted and established new models for ministry in a matter of weeks. We figured out new ways to engage in worship, learning, pastoral care and outreach ministries! I was amazed! And I hereby pledge to never again utter the words “how many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb.” “Change?” The last nine months have proven that we can and we did! So let’s quit with the excuses.
Physical distancing does not have to mean social distancing or soul distancing. In many ways I feel more connected with our synod’s rostered ministers and lay leaders than I ever have. Many of you report the same dynamic has happened within your congregations. We need to ensure that these newly forged connecting points -whether high tech, low tech or no tech – are strengthened and enhanced moving forward.
We are not as bound to bricks and mortar expressions of church as I thought we were. Our understanding of what it means to “go to church” has been fundamentally altered and expanded and I hope it sticks. The truth of that old Sunday school song has been made plainly apparent. “The church is not a building. The church is the people!” As Luther would say, “this is most certainly true!”
Crises really do create new opportunities. Flowers really can bloom in the midst of a desert. As the scope of this crisis became apparent, I was assuming that the best we could do was to hold on and maintain some measure of normalcy in church life. I never imagined that so many of us would experience an awakening of new gifts for ministry. But as hard as it’s been, many of our ministries and ministers have been newly enlivened by this sudden change of context. We’ve learned that when “same old” is no longer an option, new things can come to expression. That’s frightening for some of us but liberating for others. While tending to the former, we must continue to give space to the latter.
Adieu! Translated literally it means “to God.” In bidding adieu to calendar year 2020, we commend it to God. We commend all of it; our fears, hopes, pains and yearnings. We commend it to the God who has been present and blessed us so richly throughout these strangest of days. We commend it all to the God who also awaits and will assuredly offer new and unexpected blessings in the year to come!