(This entry is part of an ongoing collection of blogs that examine the future of congregations post-COVID19. Each entry forms itself around a question looking for clarity or even answers.)
Most congregations have been severely restricted in bringing members together physically for worship, fellowship, planning, support or service. The dangers of a relentless epidemic have reminded us how illness and death can wreak havoc on any human enterprise.
Many of us have also noticed that, over the months of separation, we may have lost track of each other. Virtual presence may have softened some of that disconnection, but it hasn’t completely hidden the possibility that some of us may have become disengaged or detached from the church.
It’s possible that some members have gotten used to this partial separation. That they may have come to see virtual relationships as sufficient for their spiritual well-being, their new normal.
Another gnawing possibility: That once COVID19 restrictions are lifted, a significant number of members may not accept invitations to return to congregational programs or events. That they may prefer online worship, ZOOM-enabled meetings and other digital means of connectedness. Because habits—including those recently learned—are not easily dislodged from daily routines, one answer to the coming-back question may be, “Why?”
Pandemic-enabled lifestyles and personalities can change, though. As we reach out to each other—a necessity for returning to any sense of community—we can make those times into events of heartfelt emotion. More than polite or generic invitations, our words can invoke fond memories, appreciation, gratitude, prayers for well-being—love by any number of names.
We can’t assume that people will need to be involved again—as though that’s always beneficial in a world that chews up their energy and time. Those reconnections will be respectful, honest and personal. We will remind each other of our value in God’s work. We will remain hopeful about each other’s lives.
And soon enough, some of these good souls will come back….
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