The pain, grief, dislocation, and uncertainty generated by this pandemic feel endless. As it turns out, so do the lists.
Top Ten Comfort Foods in Quarantine
Fifteen overlooked movies of the 1980’s
Essential TV shows to Binge Today (yes, it is time to watch The Wire if you haven’t…and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer)
The books to read to make you think you are on vacation
Which Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels to skip, which to read
The 30 best poems on Tracy K. Smith’s “Slow Burn” podcast
Of course, we also have the more pandemic-centric lists:
The 8 best facemasks
Ten important tips for staying safe
Five things to remember while traveling
Make sure your hand sanitizer has these features
List of everything parents need to know if they have to home school their child
And, these searingly painful lists:
Covid-19 deaths by state
Covid-19 deaths by ethnicity
Unemployment statistics by generation
The names of shooting deaths of black men, women, and children this year
Poverty rates by region
It is worth considering what lists churches are making – or reading – in these days.
A checklist for reopening?
A list of talking (arguing) points to fight for re-opening?
The list of those in the congregation in vulnerable situations?
A list of bills?
With hope that all of us are paying attention to the individual and communal pain of this crisis, and that the names of victims of brutality and violence stay at the forefront of our minds, I think the church needs an additional list.
Patience is wearing thin in many congregations. Church leaders are hearing things like “well, Pastor, are you ready to get back to work?” – as if the last six months have been some sort of vacation, instead of the most difficult, strained, and overtaxed season in their leadership experience. While when and how to reopen is a complex decision that can be intensely local, for many churches, re-opening has become a national socio-political proxy fight. Some congregations, caught up in the extraordinary stress of these months, have been diverted from their conviction that God loves the world more than God loves the church – so that everything we do as a congregation should be, as one of my dear friends in ministry tells his congregation, “to send a love letter to our community.”
With all that in mind, how about this list from the fifth chapter of Galatians?
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
It’s largely a myth that we human beings “rise to the occasion” in a crisis. Chances are, we default to who we really are, or were before the crisis began. To “rise to the occasion,” we need help. We need the Spirit’s help. But together, with the Spirit’s help, we can change current narratives – and lists.
Now is the time to nurture this list at the center of our life and ministry.