Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
I recently reached out to an old friend who I haven’t contacted in a while. I simply asked, “How are you doing?” He emailed, “I am doing about as well as can be expected in the midst of a global pandemic, an escalating national crisis demanding racial justice, and the most divisive political campaign in my lifetime. Other than that, I’m doing fine!”
I’m afraid to ask people, “How are you?” It is not that I don’t really want to know. I do. I care very much where folks are during this difficult time. But in hearing their answer, I find myself nodding my head in agreement because I’m feeling the same way too.
The congregations in the presbytery were going through challenges before the pandemic hit. We were struggling with the challenge brought on by declining membership and resources. We were trying to figure out why our children don’t return after confirmation, and why our older adults leave or sit idly on the sidelines. The presbytery was struggling with the reduction in volunteers. Are people just busy? Are people disinterested? Are people just apathetic? Then wham! The pandemic hit.
Keep in mind that the social unrest we are experiencing isn’t because of the pandemic. The viciousness and below the belt politics would have happened anyway as well. The pandemic has caused us to observe these events and take them into our living rooms and dens. The pandemic is the stop sign on the corner of the intersection. It is an intersection we should have been stopping at anyway. But were too busy, too involved, and not paying attention. We just blew past the corner. Now we have no choice. We must stop. We have to look at our society, our congregations, and ourselves and ask, “How are you doing? What is going on?”
The anti-racism work that so many of us are doing is necessary to help us become the church on the other side of the pandemic. The self-reflection and grappling with our political convictions can help us expand our sense of community beyond party lines, or we’ll narrow our gaze as we live into tribalism. The constant barrage of Black lives being lost on camera should open the wells of empathy in our hearts and help us become a welcoming community: a community of justice, a community of inclusion.
There will be another side to the pandemic. It may take one year, or it may take five years, but we will come out of this period of limitations. The type of people we become and the type of church that is resurrected will depend upon how we use this time; what we learn, who we talk to, what we value, and where we find God.
Rev. Craig Howard