A few months ago as vaccines were becoming widely available, one of my biggest encouragers in the faith community I pastor, suggested I make some time to go away and rest. Pretty soon, she imagined, “we will hit the ground running.”
On the one hand, she was exactly right. People were anxious to begin interacting, gathering in public and being back in face-to-face community again. We were abuzz with anticipating how soon we’d be back to in-person. Yet, “hitting the ground running” had other implications. We’d not just be re-gathering in person, we would be ramping up our pace, planning more activities and inevitably I’d be spread thin in a way I hadn’t been in a while.
It only took a couple of weeks of in-person gatherings to realize that no one would be hitting any ground running and that in fact, this would be a slower season for us. Some folks are still reluctant to gather in groups. Many are experiencing a vague tiredness and an odd disorientation. I quickly started sensing a need to gather in simple ways that require less work and provide the opportunity for meaningful connection. We need to learn to “be” together again.
In a way, these feelings are not new, they have only been heightened by the pandemic. In being forced to slow down, we are just seeing better what’s been simmering under the surface for a while.
Jesus called the life he invites us to experience “the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt. 11:29) and promised not to lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on us. That has always been the invitation and now feels like a fitting season to experiment with what that really looks like in the church’s life together. We have the chance to enter a more sustainable rhythm and to choose our focus instead of running in so many different directions. We have the opportunity to re-think when, how and why we gather and to let go of that which no longer fits.
Will we embrace what this moment is offering us or fearfully resume a flutter of activity?
Instead of hitting the ground running, like many other faith communities, we are trying to slowly re-set the table together and we are enjoying what we’ve deemed “a summer of small things.” It is the opposite of what I had anticipated and what my friend had initially imagined. Here, in this place though, we are starting to sense a reconnection with what is essential about following Jesus. Our life together is seeming more integrated and authentic. It feels like we’ve been longing for this shift for a while, but struggled to see how to get here on our own.
Slowly, ever so slowly, we are walking our way forward.
The Ministry Collaborative welcomes pastors from throughout our program and broadening network to contribute to our weekly articles. This week, our thanks to Rev. Susan Rogers, Pastor of The Well at Springfield, Jacksonville, FL and TMC Facilitator.