In these unprecedented times, how do we find a way forward? I’ve been asking myself this question in the past few weeks, and no doubt many of you have, too. Other versions of the question are: What will we do now? How are we going to get through this? How can we possibly help? What difference can we possibly make?
Both for myself, personally, and for our church family as a community, I’m finding it helpful firmly to be grounded in history. Let me explain.
First, I am rooting myself in the past: the past of First Church Congregational, yes! But also, my personal past, and the past of Christians in all times and places. For all of my life, and for the entire 290+ years of our congregation’s life and ministry, and all the centuries of Christian community, stretching back to the time of Jesus and even before, God has accompanied God’s people every step the way. When we have felt most lost, God has shined a light in the darkness, guiding our steps and helping us to find our way. The most frightening, painful and worrisome moments my life all have one thing in common: I was held in God’s boundless love and compassion throughout. And so, I keep reminding myself: We are not alone. God is with us.
Second, I am rooting myself in the present. I have created my days so as to be engaged fully in my life as I know it now. I do my work, adapted as it is: making phone calls, sending and responding to emails and texts; studying the Bible and other books; praying and meditating; participating in and facilitating meetings virtually both within our congregation and in the broader community; encouraging and facilitating people for their service through phone calls, notes, shopping for people who shouldn’t go out, helping to make the food pantry possible, and the like. I’m working with staff, Trustees, the Board, committee, and ministry team chairs to keep their work going, our building secure and functional, our program as on track as much as possible. Personally, I’m being intentional about exercise and a healthy diet, talking to friends, family and loved ones on a daily basis, and being gentle with myself when I feel stressed, tired, worried, bored, frustrated, or any of the other myriad of feelings I might have at any given moment. I’m paying attention to the news, but not too much attention, striking that careful balance of being informed but not overwhelmed. All of this is to say, I’m intentional about being grounded in the present, living one day, one moment at a time.
Third, I’m holding out hope for the future. None of us knows what the future holds. But we all know who holds the future. When we are through these days — when the urgent need for social distancing has passed, and our community and the world begins to reemerge from our homes, when our days of isolation come to a close and we move back to work and community life — when that time comes, First Church Congregational will be needed in our community more than ever! The Chapel School will be needed in our community more than ever! You and I, and everyone who is a part of the life and ministry of our church, will be needed to share love, hope, and joy in our community more than ever! The Good News of God’s boundless love and compassion, the community of love and care we share with each other and create for the children and families of our preschool, and our dedication to serving people in need in our community that is a hallmark of our congregation, all will be needed more than ever!
I am grateful for the life of faith we all share, for the rich history that ground us, and for the hopeful future we all live toward and into God has brought us safe thus far, and holds us through the present moment. I rest assured that God will help us find our way forward, too. The mission of our church guides us:
Seeking God. Caring for each other. Improving our community.
As a church family and as individuals, we will find our way through these uncertain, unprecedented days. With God’s help. I have no doubt! And we will continue to know and to share God’s love and hope, both within our church and beyond.