Feel From Every Direction
When I think back a couple of years ago to the beginning of the pandemic, as we were getting started in a new way of doing worship services, I had to re-think how I did messages for all ages. So many of those early weeks were me writing a message and talking about what was going on, as there were no books that could capture all that we were feeling and thinking and doing in those days. Always, always, in the past, I had been able to think to myself, when composing such a message—oh, here is where I can ask those gathered a question. Or here is where I want to hear what the kids will say. Or I wonder how many kids are thinking about this. Every time I reminded myself of this reality—that I had lost my ability to interact with the young people (and the grownups!) of the congregation in real time and real space, it felt acutely painful.
Eventually, over months and months of this, I adjusted how I approached things. I fed myself in part by recording stories for our young people to watch at their leisure. I created different sorts of messages for all ages. Over time, that acute pain settled into an enduring dull ache of resignation. When I noticed it, I would think: “this is just how it is now.” We adjusted in other ways, worshipping from our homes, and connecting online as we could. Which was fine. And I missed that thing where you walk around on a Sunday morning, and you see people in their favorite pews, and exchange a greeting, or get to grab a conversation that would never have happened on Zoom.
Slowly, slowly, we have brought in-person worship and all it entails back into reality, slowly, slowly, we have brought our in-person religious education programming to more and more kids in our community. Last Sunday, we held our first nursery through high school fully in-person religious education since March 2020. (With a Zoom option.) I happened to be sitting in a front pew and Val Ridenour, our Religious Education Coordinator, was in the message for all ages chair, when child after child from our kindergarten through 5th grade age groups came down to sit on the floor. We caught each others’ eyes and we were both weepy with all the feels. So great. Until I did not have it, I did not know how much all that informal spontaneous interaction of Sunday mornings feeds my spirit and soul.
I love that we are committed to continuing to livestream and record our services. There are many for whom coming to in-person worship is not possible, for a variety of reasons. It’s great to have an option that can always fit into a schedule at your convenience. And. I am so, so happy to be with whomever shows up on a Sunday morning. .
For Sunday’s call to worship, I shared the Rev. Gretchen Haley’s words, written for her children, who keep asking why they have to go to church. It’s full of reasons that are good for everyone, no matter your age. She writes: “so that you feel from every direction: you belong beyond your choosing. There is nothing you can do that would make you unworthy of love . . . We are here to learn how to hold this much love at the center of our beings, to let it be our greeting and our parting, to let it flow from our singing, and connect us in our silence . . . We are here to practice showing up like it counts, because we count….to learn community, and responsibility, and to refuse despair, which if you don’t need it yet, you will someday. To see people choosing kindness and letting go, giving away every blessing we receive with gratitude.”
As we continually adjust to new ways of being together, may we appreciate those little things and how they form the big picture of belonging and love.