It is the middle of August. Are you looking ahead to September yet? Return to school? Return to work? Return to church? Return to “normal?”
It’s about that “normal” state that we seem to be longing for. Whatever the “normal” is that we get used to in the next couple of months, it is unlikely to be completely like the “normal” that we left behind in the middle of March 2020. Many aspects of our lives will likely be different in some ways – perhaps many ways. Our church life will almost certainly also be different in some ways – perhaps in many ways.
What have you missed from your church life? Usual answers have been seeing people in person, being able to give friends a handshake and a hug, having a good old-fashioned pot-luck lunch after church, and – the big one – singing! I look forward to all these things coming back. Beyond these things, what else are you expecting from returning to some semblance of a normal weekly routine of church activities?
There has been much written in various church publications (Community of Christ and beyond) about what the post-pandemic church will look like. Generally, there is expectation that there will be a stronger presence of technology in our worship spaces to enable the continued online participation by those who, for any number of reasons, are not able to attend in-person. Online worship and gatherings over the past year and a half have shown that people can and will log on to online services. Many congregations which have offered online services have found that persons “attend” from great distances away – from farther away than they would normally drive to attend in-person. Online attendance has also enabled persons with mobility and other health challenges to participate in the life of their online congregation. Some have even chosen to participate in more than one online congregation – meaning congregations which may meet at slightly offset times, or some participants seek out worship and social opportunities beyond their time zone.
President Steve Veazey has been featured in a new video on the church website. You can find it here: President Veazey on the Return to In-Person Church. I commend the whole video to you. Here are a couple of good quotes:
Also, in a recent Project Zion Podcast, President Veazey said:
I think the future holds the following: church groups that develop a healthy balance of in-person and online ministries, some call it the hybrid approach, will flourish more in the future than those who ignore that tool, who ignore online opportunities. I also think that churches, and I'm speaking there of local churches, congregations and groups, but also denominationally, that value and celebrate people who participate only online, by their choice, or because of their circumstances, will flourish more than those who view those participants somehow as secondary, or less than. So, online participation should count as much in every possible way as in-person participation, including in the attendance count because it all counts. I think church groups that plan activities and ministries from the beginning with online options in mind, and online participation in mind, rather than as an afterthought, will flourish more in the future.
Our full return to in-person services and gatherings will feel good. I am sure that mostly they will feel familiar and like an old friend. I am also sure that there will be elements that will be different and that will improve our relationship to that old friend in ways we have yet to discern.
As always, I pray for you God’s blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace in these challenging times.
Canada West Mission Centre President
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