The Coronavirus has not gone away. Neither has our counsel to make decisions with an abundance of caution.
Some of our Indiana churches have returned to worshipping in their sanctuaries with safety protocols and everyone adjusting to what we hope is a temporary “new normal.” Face masks, social distancing, and worship without congregational singing remains a part of our best practices.
Some of our churches will not resume in sanctuary worship or small group meetings in their buildings until they are confident that people can be assured of a safe experience. This means more Zoom calls, Youtube and live streaming. More Facebook Live and connecting by phone.
Naturally, we have adjusted the best we can, and we will remain faithful even if this virus keeps us separated for many more weeks or months. But changes, technology, and germs take their toll, not only on you but the flocks whose care you have been entrusted.
And so I ask, “How is it with your church’s soul?” When I ask the question, it is not a solicitation of numbers or dates. I want to know if we have rejected the notion of social isolation and have found a way to not leave people behind.
After all, our real reason for being the Church is not to go to church. Our “rai-son d’etre” is to know and follow Jesus. Jesus did not invite his disciples to come and go to church. He invited his followers to come and go to the world as fishers of people, from now until Christ returns.
“When your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7).
Remain strong as we walk through this trial, Friends. Of course, we miss our church building. We miss our friends and the ability to smile, laugh, cry in close proximity in the place we call sanctuary. The holy, consecrated space where the altar can be seen, the ministers can be heard, and the presence of God acknowledged.
The church building, sacred as it is, is a building that needs tending to. So, too, does your church’s soul need tending to.
In times like these, it is important to regularly take the temperature of your congregation’s soul. Are your members being challenged and growing in their faith? Are people participating, digitally or otherwise? Do you as a church show commitment in attendance, in giving, and in encouragement? Are your leaders leaning into the vision of your church wholeheartedly, though your version of church may look different than ever before?
Whether you have returned or not, bathe your church family in prayer and your pastors in encouragement. Conference leadership and I have been praying for you, and we will continue. As your bishop, I care about your church and its health. We don’t have to be together to stay together, united in prayer and calling.
With or without your building, how is it with your church’s soul?
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church