|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on April 14, 2021 at 7:15 PM|
What a joy it was to gather with some of you in the nave for worship this past Sunday morning! It certainly was not a return to normal, but it still felt great. It was also, however, a reminder that we are still in the middle of a liminal and transitional moment in our lives and in the life of the Church. We are still in a place where there remains a significant amount of uncertainty about the future. How long will we have to continue operating under current limitations? When will we be able to open services to all comers again? When will we be able to sing in church again? When will we be able to receive Communion in both kinds again? When can we get back to normal?
All of these questions speak to a larger, over-arching question: what will be the long-term effects of the past year on how we do church? We find ourselves at one of those unexpected but inescapable inflection points. The strong tendency of human nature when confronted with a moment like this is to want to quickly get back to “the way things were”. I think, however, that we are better served by allowing ourselves some time and space to reflect and take stock before trying to return to “normal”. In his most recent book, Candles in the Dark: Faith, hope and love in a time of pandemic, Rowan Williams writes the following:
“A fierce clinging to what we have inherited from the past is never enough. We have to look at the new landscape and see freshly in the new setting what we remember. In the Church’s life, it’s the tightrope we tread between the amnesia that is so consumed by contemporary pressure and fashion that it never bothers to find out what the community’s memory or tradition is saying, and the equally damaging traditionalism which idealizes the entity we think we once were. Both of these refuse the really creative challenge of integrating ‘past selves’ in a fuller understanding of the present.”
We are undoubtedly facing a “new landscape” as we gradually start to return to some of our past practices of being the Church. This new landscape offers both challenge and opportunity. As we move forward into an uncertain future, my hope is that we will do so with a healthy respect for our past and a faithful openness to new possibilities, always remembering what Williams so eloquently writes: “(Christ) is contemporary with me now; and when I remember with honesty and hope, I discover that he is contemporary with what I remember, faithfully at work in my past as in my present.”
Yours in Christ,