We are now over five weeks into our stay-at-home order in California. As I write this, we are approaching our eighth Sunday of online worship.
I have heard some people talking about trying to adapt to the “new normal.” If that phrase speaks to you, that’s great, but for me, so far, I can’t embrace the idea that this is a “new normal,” even though I think we will be living more or less in quarantine for several months to come.
Instead, I prefer the phrase “crisis living.” For me, it better captures the stress of what we are living through: that reading or watching the news brings more fear and anxiety, that trying to get groceries is stressful and takes a lot of time and energy, that every sneeze or cough brings with it a wave of fear and worry. Yes, we are finding new routines and life rhythms. But we are also using enormous amounts of energy just getting through the day.
During our “Coping” service on April 26, I shared that I think it unlikely that we’ll be able to worship in person together until a vaccine is developed. Some of you felt relieved to hear me say that out loud, so we can start talking about it. And others of you were surprised and upset. A vaccine is probably 18 months away (we’ve been told), and that’s a long time to worship away from our chapel.
When I look at ideas about “phasing” the reduction of restrictions, it appears that large group gatherings will be among the last activities to be okayed. There might be a time before that when low-risk people are allowed to resume certain activities while high-risk people are encouraged (or required) to stay at home. I cannot image encouraging one segment of our congregation to worship in-person together while requiring another segment to watch online from home. I think we would prefer to worship all together, even if that means worshipping online.
The good news in all this (one of the “strange blessings,” as I like to call them) is that our online worship and small group activities are as widely available as they’ve ever been, and we have seen more people, and people new to the congregation, attending many of our activities. Sunday worship attendance online is higher than it is when we worship in-person, and I’ve heard from many of you who lead our small groups that you’re seeing strong attendance there also.
How wonderful that we’re able to share the gifts of being in community with more people than ever, especially in these difficult times when so many people need more support and connection.
Blessings and love to each of you,