Thoughts from the Pastor

“We have always done it this way”

In Seminary as I trained for Pastoral ministry, we were taught to identify the sentiment expressed in the title of this article: “We have always done it this way.” Churches and congregations naturally have the tendency to hold onto tradition, patterns of worship, programs, church structure, even theology. Change can be difficult for churches because for so many, there is comfort in the familiarity.  It is not inherently bad or negative to continue “doing church” for the same way for generations. However, our love for tradition and familiarity must always be held in tension with a God who has the tendency to do a new thing.

These past few months have been uncomfortable for all of us, more so for some than others.  Many of you have expressed your appreciation for how we as a congregation have approached worship during this pandemic.  Others perhaps felt we could have done a few things differently but have been respectful and understanding.  Others may be frustrated or have temporarily sought worship somewhere else.  Perhaps there are those who are even angry or have decided to permanently worship elsewhere moving forward.  As the pandemic went on and I became aware that no end was in immediate sight, I prepared myself for all these possible reactions.  Many institutions from government, schools, and yes churches are discovering that there is no satisfactory response to COVID that will please all.

On August 16th we will have the option to gather on Sunday morning in person for the first time since mid-March. It will still not be in our sanctuary, but it is another small step in that direction. However, as we move slowly towards a return into our building, I find it important again to warn against the temptation to push for “normalcy.” I certainly understand and echo the desire for things to “be like they always were,” for us to return to “how we always did things” but if this is our goal, I’m certain we will find ourselves increasingly frustrated and discouraged.

I have been pondering Psalm 121 this past month, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come, it comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” I genuinely believe this is a vital time for the Christian church in the United States, if we are to grow then our goal cannot be to return to how things were.  Certainly, I believe we will worship in our sanctuary again, the pandemic will not last forever, but we must ask ourselves if our desire to return into the sanctuary is motived by the sentiment expressed in the article title. Is a desire for normalcy, for how we “always” did worship, our motivation?

As we return to in person worship on August 16th and hopefully remain that way moving forward keep in mind a few things. The pandemic is unpredictable, and we could find ourselves needing to move again into online worships. While it will be exciting and uplifting to see each other on a Sunday morning, it is not going to be the same.  Finally, accept and lean into this uncomfortable moment, accept that normalcy is gone, and that God can use this moment to call us into something new and glorious.
~ Pastor Nathan