April 15 – Letter – Rev. Soozi Whitten Ford

In the commentary and conversations around the pandemic, I’ve sensed a shift in the last week, at least from those in the media.  In the previous month there was a lot of talk about “when this is all over” and getting “back to normal,” as if COVID-19 was something that would soon be easily overcome. This week, government leaders are now putting plans in place for the gradual lifting of stay-at-home orders and allowing businesses to reopen.  The language now seems to be about how basic practices of living must be adapted in light of the reality that the COVID-19 virus will be present with us for quite some time.

Following the resurrection of Jesus, life was anything but normal for the disciples.  On the day of resurrection, Cleopas and his wife (my presumption about his companion) were walking to Emmaus when Jesus joined them for the journey and, after some discussion, and “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27).  On the third day after the resurrection, Peter and others were together when Peter announced, “I am going fishing,” (John 21:3 – my husband’s favorite verse!), all in all, a relatively normal thing to do when nothing else is going on and it makes sense to get back to work.

It was during these normal everyday activities, walking towards home and going fishing that Jesus appeared.  All four gospels include post-resurrection stories of Jesus being present with his followers and in every one of them he makes it clear that, going forward, their lives will not be “back to normal” at all.  Reading further into the early chapters of Acts, we begin to get a glimpse of just what Jesus meant.  As those chapters unfold, we see that the Spirit literally propelled them, and Jesus’ message, into areas which were quite new, unique from anything with which they had previous experience.

Now more than ever, I am convinced that churches insistent on getting things “back to normal” will die, and some will succumb more quickly than others. Churches that thrive in the season that is yet to unfold are those who will have learned from the ways they have pivoted, innovated, created, and adapted during the realities imposed on us due to COVID-19.  Let me encourage you now to dwell deeply in scripture and wholly lean into the Spirit, earnestly praying for wisdom and discernment from the Resurrected Christ and the Living God. You, and we, will need this strong foundation in order to move into the changed, and continuously changing realities that are before us, even as we are Together on God’s Abundant Journey.