A People and A Verb
“Although the building is closed, the church has always been open because the church is you.”
These are the words that I used at the start of every worship service since the beginning of the pandemic. With this message, I hoped to highlight an idea that is often discussed among congregational leaders: the church is not a building—the church is a people. As a people, we have navigated the challenges of the last sixteen months with great success. Although the path was unfamiliar and often filled with obstacles, we walked as Christ’s disciples, serving our neighbors and each other, proclaiming the Good News in word and deed.
As we step into the next phase of our congregation’s life, I have been reflecting on a different comment about the nature of the church. Recently, I heard a colleague say, “The church is not a noun; the church is verb.” The random re-assignment of a word’s part of speech troubles my grammarian sensibilities. But we know that language and definitions are constantly evolving—just like life. This sentence communicates something essential about the church. We are a people who are defined by what we do together. In this phase, we will need to learn anew how to enact the community of the church because the months of physical distancing have changed some of the ways that we relate to each other.
On Sunday, we celebrated a baptism of a girl who was born shortly before the pandemic restrictions went into place. Her parents told me that they loved having all that time with their newborn, but they were also aware that she has not learned how to be comfortable with other adults. That’s a dramatic example of the impact, but the pandemic adaptations have impacted all of us in a variety of ways.
Members and friends of Central have only seen each other through zoom meetings or zoom fellowship activities—or in the chat room on Facebook Live. Think about all of the nuances of communication that are lost when we are faces on a screen instead of fully-embodied people in a room together. Consider how much church work is done during coffee hour. Informal conversations about upcoming projects and activities make it easier to do the formal planning. We will be re-learning many of these ways of communicating and planning that were disrupted last March.
In the last month, I have realized that my own resilience is depleted, and I lack the patience that I had before the pandemic. I am working to be more mindful of what I need to be more fully present to others. I invite all of us to reflect on what we need as we seek to “be” the church in another new situation. As Stewards of the congregation’s spiritual life, the Deacons are paying particular attention to these issues of congregational relations. They have assigned one liaison to each of the church’s decision-making boards and committees to help facilitate communication. If you have questions or concerns that you would like to discuss, please feel free to reach out to me or to a member of the Deacons.
My prayer is that God will continue to bless us on our journey as the church—a people and a verb.
Grace and peace,