When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly… (Acts 2:1)
These words will be read in most churches in the diocese on Sunday, May 31, the fiftieth day after Easter, what some people call the birthday of the Church but is more commonly known as Pentecost. More than anything, it is the day that the disciples learned that everything in their lives had changed once again as they took on a new role: apostle. That day did many things, but I am not sure it presented to them the option of going back into the upper room.
Taking on this role meant evolving beyond that of being a student under the guiding eye of their rabbi. It meant emerging from the upper room, stepping into the town square and going out into a world they would change forever.
It would be far too simplistic to equate the experience of our parishes and today’s Church to that day. However, as some people start seeing a gently flattened curve and hopeful statistics, their silent wondering is clear: when will we be allowed to start gathering in our places of worship once again, and, just as importantly, who will we be on that day?
We all know we must wait for guidance from our pastoral leadership, which is listening for the advice of the medical community to safely see what our new normal will be. But it doesn’t change the fact that many are still wondering.
This time of separation has not been easy, but it has also been a time of amazing discovery. Most of my colleagues comment that they have never been busier in ministry. Parishes across our diocese and in many faith expressions have taken a crash course in online worship, live streaming, and Zoom-everything.
As we have worked diligently to stay at home, supporting the work of essential services by not adding to their workload, the innovation and evolution that has taken place in the lives of Anglicans here and elsewhere has seen the reward of a renewed level of connectedness.
In all that wondering, and as the yearning towards a new normal continues, my mind has settled on questions revolving around many things:
- Since we don’t know how much longer the present restrictions on gatherings are going to continue, is it premature to dream about what we will do when…?
- In all the innovation and evolution, have we entertained the thought that God might be asking us to slow down a bit – that right now, instead of being busier, this may be calling us into a time of reflection?
- As we effectively reach out to people in our communities, both near and far, are we effectively reaching those who are not connected to the internet?
- Will we be able to kickstart our own communities back into ministry, or will this time of separation hasten the decline so many speak of?
I wish there was a simpler way to navigate through this time, but we are in that overused catch phrase, “uncharted territory,” and it is challenging. However, just as we all work to navigate our way through these waters, I can’t help but believe we are being called into a wonderful time, similar to that of the day of Pentecost.
While our time is different than theirs, as we wait for that longed-for all-clear when our doors are permitted to open once again, we will have a choice to make. Will we bring with us all those innovations and ideas that have inspired renewed connectedness, along with more traditional ways of connecting? And will we take the challenge to find the time and space to slow down and not be so connected?
When that day comes, I have no doubt there will be a great sigh of relief and a tremendous Hallelujah from all corners of our diocese and beyond as we continue as the people of God.