There is no question that COVID-19 has been disruptive. We, like the Israelites, found ourselves wandering in the wilderness, anxious to get back to normal.
We have realized that “normal” will not happen anytime soon so, like the Israelites, we made our home in this new place, building houses (carving out offices) and planting gardens (noticing and practising what is life-giving).
Summer has afforded us opportunities for reuniting with family and friends outdoors. Vaccines have made it possible to see those whom we have missed. Congregations have been able to resume worship in modified ways. We are dreaming of a return to what was familiar, even as some of us are feeling quite at home in our new routines, and patterns of living and relating.
As a fourth wave of this pandemic looms, or in some places has already arrived, it raises many questions about what this means for congregational life. While many Canadians have been vaccinated, not all have been or can be due to medical reasons or because of age restrictions. How do we create spaces and opportunities to come together in worship and service that are hospitable and caring for all?
On the Mennonite Church Eastern Canada staff team, we are considering what it could look like for team members to come together in the office again and for us to reopen our doors to the public. We have articulated values to guide our discernment:
- We are under God’s care.
- Given the complexity of the questions before us, we will speak and act with humility.
- We will defer to public health guidelines.
- We will consider “what is the loving thing to do.”
I invite you, in your setting, to think about the values you hold as a community to help you live into the mission to which God has called, and is calling, you. Given the wide variety of ways the novel coronavirus and its variants have moved into our various regions, there is no one-size-fits all approach to what re-opening looks like. Each age group will determine how best to engage in activities, remembering that masks, distancing and hygiene practices are our best protection against this virus. Each of our congregations will have to make decisions based on the latest information from their regional public health authority.
God created and loves each of us; living into that knowledge invites us to imitate God’s love and care to all around us. The questions before us invite a posture of humility that what we know and understand now may change as new information emerges. Given that we, in the community of faith, each come to decisions that differ, as we navigate challenges in the new normal, we can be guided by the question, “What is the loving thing to do?”
Christian faith and life are best lived in an embodied way. We need each other to see beyond our own perspectives so that we can see more completely how God is at work.
God bless our discerning and our returning.
Marilyn Rudy-Froese is MC Eastern Canada’s church leadership minister, working closely with pastors and congregation leaders.