This column is being written on June 15, California’s long anticipated Re-opening Day. The shops on Lakeshore Avenue are busy. Parking in front of the church is again an issue. Our LCC Summer Camp program is in full swing and filled to capacity. Last week I got to meet Ella Grace Hadley as Spencer and Eva were dropping Amani off for camp. This morning I got to meet Olivio Martin as Phillip, Cameron, Theo and Cameron’s mom, Carolyn, dropped by to talk about the Blood Drive Phillip is organizing on Mandana Green next week. July 11th, the Sunday we regather for Public worship, is on the horizon.
Many of the clergy I know from around the Bay and around the country report that the return to public worship, while welcome, has been personally challenging and demanding. At once there are high expectations, reasons for caution, the implementation of new technologies, the need to re-learn some old skills, questions about what the future holds, the desire to be a non-anxious presence when the opportunities to be anxious are plentiful and reports of increased congregational conflict. National studies report that rates of depression and anxiety in clergy are higher than usual and that a high percentage of us have/are considering retiring, resigning or reconsidering our call. Clergy are not the only ones negotiating turbulent waters as the pandemic rolls on, but there are demands unique to our profession that can weigh heavily on us.
When we return to public worship, we will be utilizing our new livestreaming equipment to stream the service via YouTube as well as inviting folks more comfortable with Zoom to connect that way. This represents a significant increase in the number of factors to consider when planning and leading service as well as a significant increase in the number of people needed to manage the production technology. If you think of someone who might enjoy getting trained in using the technology, please let me know. Also, if you are somewhat comfortable on Zoom, please consider taking a Sunday as a host for that platform.
We are still discussing what will be included in our worship service. Masks and social distancing will be the norm for the foreseeable future. Still under consideration are questions like: Will there be congregational singing? What about the Passing of the Peace? What about passing the offering plate? How will we observe Communion? When will Coffee Hour return and in what form? What about livestreaming the Children’s Story? Are there safety/privacy concerns there? When will we begin providing childcare and a Children’s Sunday School time?
If for no other reason than that there have been 600,000 deaths, equivalent to the loss of a city the size of Baltimore or Milwaukee, deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, none of us begin to move out of the pandemic unchanged or unscathed. There is grief and loss. There is change and confusion. And yes, by grace, there is learning and love.
We need to process what we have been through. We need to discern where we are heading. God grant the willingness, the patience and the wisdom to trust each other and to heed the Spirit as our journey continues.