Grace and peace!
Last month I asked you what it means to trust in the Holy Spirit. Well, we’re certainly getting a crash course in that this month! I shared with you that during February, I attended a continuing education about discerning the Holy Spirit, and that our speaker, Dr. Malcolm, asked us to consider three questions. How is the Holy Spirit working in my life at this time? How is the Holy Spirit working in my congregation at this time? And how is the Holy Spirit working in my community, nation, and world at this time?
I feel these current challenges drawing me into the second question. How is the Holy Spirit working in our congregations in the midst of this distancing we are practicing for the good of our neighbors? What gifts is the Holy Spirit encouraging? What mindsets is the Holy Spirit challenging? One thing Dr. Malcolm pointed out is that God has provided everything we need.
With all the different ways we are affected by COVID-19, we are in a bit of a period of wandering. We are trying new things. We are rapidly increasing our online presence. I have spent the better part of this week in webinars about digital ministry and ways to stay connected to people when we cannot be physically close. I never anticipated just how fitting our Lenten theme of “Living in Exile Where You Are” would prove to be. We are learning and experimenting together as we embark on these new ventures.
We are being called into a new way of being faithful together. What does a faithful life together look like when we cannot be together as we are used to? How do we worship apart from one another?
We will be spending this time period together answering those questions. And we’ll experiment and try new things as we do so. We will find things that don’t work for us, and we will find surprises in this time that we will take with us when this period of exile is finished. In a time when we have little choice but to trust in the Holy Spirit.
In addition to experimenting with new technologies and capabilities our ancestors could only dream of, we will also have an opportunity to take on some of our ancestors’ practices. Early Christians worshipped in small groups in homes. Sound familiar? Many of us are now rediscovering how to do that. While we will be offering to mail orders of worship to people who cannot access our live streams, we are called to remember that we do not worship alone. Even when we cannot see other worshippers, we are joined in our worship of God. We can take small steps to make a time of worship feel more like going to church. It is appropriate to make a focal point while watching live streams of worship; placing a cross, lighting candles, filling a bowl with water to remember baptism… These are all things we can do in almost any space to help us be mindful of the time of worship, and these are practices we inherit from our spiritual ancestors. This calling of God is entirely new, but yet in line with what God has done in the past.
While COVID-19 is a tragedy, we remember that God works with us in the midst of tragedies. We are called to trust in the leading of the Holy Spirit, wherever that guiding takes us. We are called to listen carefully. So what is the Holy Spirit doing right now in our congregations? Where is the Spirit leading us?
I can only see one way forward: together in Christ.