Dear kindred in Christ,
We’ve been living through so many disasters the past few years. Devastating fires, flooding, droughts, freezes like we haven’t seen before. Another Black person murdered, on tape,. Another, another. Another. And we shudder, we have seen this before A world-wide pandemic and over 5 million people dead as we enter a third year. People have been scattered, disoriented, no one has all the information we need and want, and it seems like no matter where we look, it all looks different, unrecognizable.
Disaster has the capacity to scatter and isolate us, disrupting our familiar patterns of life and ways of gathering that provide comfort and support for life as we know it, even when times get hard.
I think about our spiritual ancestors the Israelites, who are conquered multiple times, their temple destroyed, and many of them sent into exile in different distant lands for several generations at a time. I think of the disciples, locking themselves in a room in shock, sorrow, and fear after their teacher, friend, and Messiah is tortured and murdered on a cross.
Whatever the disaster, we simply cannot proceed as if nothing has happened. We have to live through the pain, loss, confusion, and rupture. Through the suffering and dismay and anger, and whatever else the disaster evokes can also, sometimes we’re blessed with a sense of moving together through it, the disaster, and it’s this moving together that I want to focus on.
I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of pausing together in the midst of crisis to look around, and reflect. As this covid19 pandemic has worn on, as a church we’ve had not just our worship life disrupted but our means and modes of sharing fellowship, pastoral support, supporting basic life needs, employment and housing situations all thrown into disarray. People have died. People have been seriously ill, lost work, gone hungry, suffered despair and depression and terrible loneliness. And we couldn’t just “get together” in easy and familiar ways to figure out how to respond.
It felt like we were constantly having to learn new technologies, assess risk and changing public health information, all while desperately wanting to care for each other and our neighbors.
Over the past couple years as a church, every 2 or 3 or 4 months, we were gathering (sometimes all virtually, sometimes all outdoors in a yard, sometimes in a hybrid fashion, as the covid19 situation dictated) to reflect on what was going on and what we were going to do next. Usually, we thought that we were about to enter a phase of the pandemic when the world would be “moving into the clear.”
Turns out every time it was more like we were pausing to breathe, look around, and assess our options and the resources available to us. But we weren’t moving into a peaceful and more recognizable landscape so much as pausing while still in the wilderness, still in unknown territory.
As we enter year 3 of pandemic-disrupted life, we are still in unknown territory even though the landscape has shifted. We’re not where we were before.
We are still in the wilderness, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be in a process of regrouping.
Regrouping is about observing, looking around, considering what is and what might be, what’s been lost and what’s been found along the way. Regrouping is a process. It’s about asking questions, some looking backward but a lot of looking around, in many directions (because even which way “forward” is fuzzy in the wilderness).
Here on the edge of 2022 I am inviting us to think of this year, this next couple years really, as a time of regrouping while still moving in the wilderness. We have not “arrived on the other side” of this pandemic, not yet. But we aren’t not where we were in March 2020. We know things we didn’t then. We’ve learned a lot, we’ve suffered a lot, and we’ve found new ways to keep moving together, knowing how important that is.
Let’s pause in the wilderness to look around in as many directions as possible, assess and reflect.
- What are our most pressing anxieties are right now?
- What’s easier than before? What’s harder?
- How do these relate to our sense of our core (what keeps us together as we move)?
- What do we need right now?
- What seems possible?
- What’s scary?
- What can we say about God because of where we stand today?
- What can’t we say about God right now?
- What does our prayer to God taste like in our mouths, our song?
Faithfully with you in the wilderness,