I have a church consultant friend whose blog I follow. She was recently talking about transitions and the importance of ritual in marking those times. She spoke about her transition from pastoral ministry to consulting and the joy and grief of that change. She said she needed a ritual to help her make the transition and for her it was journaling.
It got me thinking about all the transitions that are taking place in my life and your life and the life of Grand Ledge First the last several months. Ritual helps us integrate the wisdom we've learned from the past and mark a starting point for our move into a preferred future. For example, Baptism marks the end of our old life and the beginning of our new life in Christ. Churches say goodbye to their old pastor with a service or potluck or both and do the same to welcome the new kid. But those old rituals have had to be put aside or dramatically changed (like our Communion service).
Then it struck me how old rituals like a handshake or a hug have suddenly become rare and dare I say it, maybe even-dangerous. It got me thinking about what will be the new rituals for us in these changing times. Will it be making a cup of coffee and sitting down in front of your laptop or tablet to worship on a Sunday morning? Might it be the revival of something old like Wednesday night church only with a twist...in the parking lot in your car? Is something as old as Communion being made new again now that you bring your own bread and juice online and have sanitized cups and wafers in a "snack bag" in church?
Have you noticed how often something old can become new again? How many times has your laundry detergent become "new and improved" for example? John Wesley grew the Methodist movement in something he called Class Meetings which were small groups of people who met to love and encourage one another and live the faith out together. Of course that was just a twist on Jesus' small group model. Right now small groups are in and large gatherings are out. It seems to me that meeting in small groups is the way to go forward as a Church. We look back and find a new way forward...what was old becomes new again with a twist.
We're going to be rolling out some new ways to do Sunday School for our children and youth because the old way doesn't make sense anymore. We're also going to be launching small groups in a big way (catch that twist...small in a big way...humor me). Here's a new "ritual" that has helped me through this transitional time: editing the music people record for Online Worship. I've never edited video before but it's a new skill I've had to learn. It's been strangely helpful to hear wonderful music and trim it and insert text. It's forced me to be creative and observant in ways I had never been before. Did I want to learn to edit video? NOPE...not on my to ever do list at all. Am I glad I have done it? Yes...strangely I can honestly say yes. Let me encourage you to try new stuff in these strange days. I've spoken to people who have gotten a Facebook page for the first time...figured out how to Zoom...ordered groceries online...we are all in this amazing time when it's ok to try new stuff.
Here is what I know. We will get through this. God will use this time to help us become better people and a better church. Here is the key: be open to something new and be looking and listening for God's direction. Remember it was God who said in Isaiah, "Behold I do a new thing." Let's have some fun learning and growing and discovering this new thing together!