Things are reopening in at the church I serve. Not that we were ever “closed.” Worship continued throughout the entirety of the pandemic, and we returned to in-person worship, with COVID-19 restrictions, last fall. But June 2021 has marked the start of worshipping without COVID restrictions. Things are “getting back to normal,” in the eyes of some. We recently hosted our first memorial service reception in over a year and a half. Staff members are planning big programs for the fall. Programs and committees that only met online are now beginning to meet in person.
While all of this is exciting, I also feel overwhelmed and sometimes uneasy. After a year of restrictions, it doesn’t feel quite right to have those restrictions lifted. In the same way that we had to adjust our ministries to the pandemic, we’re now having to readjust our ministries to a new reality — one in which COVID-19 still exists, but is not quite as dangerous now that vaccinations are available. How do we take what we’ve learned and how we’ve adapted and apply that to yet another change?
I was thinking about all this as I dropped my son off for the second day of day camp. He recently finished pre-kindergarten at the early childhood program he’s attended since he was an infant. Because he will be in kindergarten in the fall, my husband and I thought he might enjoy day camp, rather than us hiring a babysitter for the summer. This is the first big transition my son has ever had to make, and the first week of day camp has been fraught with questions and fatigue and nervousness. Camp that lasts all day is a new experience for my son, and not only is he tired, but he’s not sure he likes it.
So, as you’ve probably predicted, life has been unsettled in my household this week. I was talking with my husband about the convergence of transitions in our home life and work life when I remembered a quote from “In the Beginning” by Chaim Potok. “All beginnings are hard,” says Potok. My son is at the beginning of something new — a new routine, a new set of friends, a new kind of day. Our church is also at the start of something new — new programs, new congregational expectations. And all this newness is bound to make us uncomfortable. The transition will not be smooth, despite our best efforts, because beginnings are hard.
The answer to this reality is not to cease doing new things, but to give ourselves grace and patience in the midst of the transition. I think this is especially vital as staff and congregants slowly adjust to being at in-person activities. Some people are ready for these activities, some are filled with trepidation. Others of us are a mixture of both eagerness and unease. Whatever the case, I pray that we allow one another to move at the pace at which we’re comfortable. As my husband Josh says, “We’re not going back to 2019,” which means we’ve got to look ahead into the rest of 2021 with the same creativity with which we approached 2020. It won’t be easy, but the promise upon which I rest is that God goes with me into the transition and gives us all the strength we need to carry on.