After the Quarantine: An Argument Against An Overscheduled And Under-Authentic Church

posted on April 25

After the Quarantine: An Argument Against An Overscheduled And Under-Authentic Church

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed awaysee, everything has become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
Your inbox may soon be inundated with lots of details about how to “re-open” your church. This is not one of those emails. I’m more interested in how you can renew it, and consider what you have learned and longed for to make it new for the new world which we will inhabit.
The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time trying to convince his beloved friends in Corinth that they could be made new. They were a hard crowd - devout in the mornings, but as the day moved on they returned to old habits. The siren call of Aphrodite’s temple high above their city was hard to resist. Their days started strong, but ended poorly.  Let the same not be said for our quarantine.
Our hearts anticipate the beautiful day when we can once again worship in our church buildings. Our lesson has been learned – never take worship for granted! We miss the warmth and the witness that was ours to enjoy each week.
Church was for many “a third place” – that dear location we frequented most after home and office. We are certainly longing for church; however, I sense in my spirit a longing for life at church to be different than it was before. Here are some things that can be different:

  • You may discover you actually LIKE Zoom for church meetings. It allows working parents to not have to seek babysitters, and it keeps folks from having to drive at night.  You may want to use the church building for establishing sacred relationships, not as a collection of meeting rooms. We can choose to identify the church building with the sacred work of relationships.
  • Younger people in our churches have so much to offer, but before this time we have not been open to their ideas. They have taken on new leadership and created innovation that will last well beyond the pandemic.  Please don’t strip them of their work, ever.
  • There may be a renewal of intergenerational ministries, as concern has been raised for the well-being of our senior citizens and the loneliness of our young adults. The church is the place in our society where everyone can have “grandparents”, “children”, and “grandchildren” by our grafting into the family of faith.
  • Many of our churches and pastors who have not been regularly connected to our District and Conference are more engaged and more involved. They see the many blessings of a deep denominational connection
  • There are theological conversations about the purpose of worship, deeper than I have ever witnessed in my 30-year ministry. We are deciding what is most important about worship. We know what we miss about it, and what we could have done without all along. May we worship differently when this is over. More spirit and truth, less fluff.
  • Small groups have changed. I had the joy of listening in on one of my husband’s Sunday School class Zoom calls. The laughter, the honesty, the gathering together around supper tables at day’s end would have never happened on a normal weekday evening. Instead of “we’re too busy”, they gladly put their heads and hearts together to help a local children’s hospital, even in the midst of their own concerns.
  • There is a resurgence of the theological notion called “grace.” While none of us have EVER had to earn our salvation, we know now more than ever that the church does not exist to grade people for their performances. We’ve all needed a little grace during this time, and we have been reminded that we have frankly needed it all along.
  • We are speaking more of community as something to be nurtured. Relationships and trust are built over time, and we are developing new paths to understanding others.

We will be tempted, perhaps to “forget” all of this ever happened. Some writers have suggested that there will be a tremendous attempt to “gaslight” Americans and try to convince them not to remain content with the simple, but to re-engage a consumer pursuit. They may urge us to go back to a lifestyle of materialism, division, overscheduling, and binary thinking. As we have been in our homes and quieted our minds and spirits, we have seen a new reality that can revitalize the church in our time.  The atmosphere has cleared up, inside and out.
We are best to NEVER go back to the way things were. We were overscheduled and under- authentic. We were busy but not necessarily productive. We were spending money but it didn’t always buy joy. We were looking for entertainment, but failing to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. We have rediscovered birds and flowers. We have rediscovered cards and letters. We have rediscovered our neighbors. We have rediscovered appreciation. We have rediscovered teamwork. We like our homes. We miss our churches.
We don’t have to ever go back to the way things used to be.  We can move towards what is better, and what is best. Thanks be to God.
Love and Peace to All,
Bev Coppley
District Superintendent

After the Quarantine An Argument Against An Overscheduled And UnderAuthentic Church