By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
Lately I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with my wife, Chris Bergman, concerning community, about how it’s endured and how it will emerge from the pandemic. The COVID-19 vaccination certainly brought good news to this country; however, concerns remain about variants and precautions are needed until more people are vaccinated. Still, there’s a real hope now – one we didn’t have a few months ago.
Communities have had their share of struggles this past year, including not being able to touch or hug one another. I often think about people who live alone or are homebound, such as the elderly, some of whom are rarely touched except perhaps by doctors, nurses or caregivers. During the pandemic, we all experienced a measure of that loneliness – having to stay 6 feet apart, not hugging friends and families, or even passing the sign of peace to one another at church. As all that starts to change, I wonder what we’ll carry with us from our quarantine experiences. Will we empathize with our extended community in a new way? We’ve seen how difficult it is to bless somebody long distance and how, to really be a blessing, you need to be there in person. Will we notice as those blessings are restored? Will we actually be aware of how special it is to hold someone again? I truly hope so. Like many others, our family learned new ways to connect during the pandemic. We celebrated birthdays, a graduation, even an engagement over Zoom! A silver lining Spirit of Peace gleaned from this “Great Pause” (one we intend to carry with us) has been how technology enabled us to reach out even further than before, and allowed us to be one of the few churches in town to provide both in-person and virtual worship services. Moving forward, I hope we’ll all continue finding creative ways of using technology to bring us closer.
While we don’t yet know what “normal” will look like, we’re likely better off not going back to exactly the way things were before. I think we’ve learned that some things are better now!
Perhaps more people will ask to work from home, at least part-time, so they can spend less time commuting and more time with their families. (Think about how many meaningful hours you might have gained this year?) The question is: are we going to rewind our lives, or use what we’ve learned and reset them? Let’s be brave; let’s not go back to making “I’m super-busy” a badge of courage.
Will we come out of this with a deeper appreciation of not only the joy of being together as Christians in worship, but also as everyday people enjoying a backyard barbecue together?
Will we hold onto the unique window we had into the lives and loneliness of others and the empathy we gained?
Will we remember how precious our elders are?
It’s up to us how we want life to look for the rest of 2021 and beyond. Maybe, if we take the best of COVID-19 lessons learned, we can create a future with a true understanding of community at the center!
God loves you, and so do I!