“We’ve never done it that way before.”
“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)
This statement often comes as a response to an idea or proposal that is new or foreign to us. It is usually a mark of resistance against something unfamiliar and unknown. I have heard it said that these are the ‘seven last words’ of the Church.
In the past few months we’ve been doing many things in ways we have never done them before… and never imagined we’d have to do them! Zoom meetings and fellowship time. On-line video services. Outdoor worship in the parking lot. Greeting people while wearing masks and social distancing. Worshiping indoors quietly… or sitting in the car and listening through the radio. For some it has meant receiving the service and sermon in the mail each week.
It has been and will continue to be a challenge for us all. It’s easy to cross our arms, dig in our heels, and long for the way we’ve always done it. But just think what the past few months would have been like if we hadn’t been willing to experiment and try new ways of connecting with God and with each other!
The reality in which we find ourselves tells us that the routine and familiar are just not possible for now… and in some cases, may not be again. When these days of challenge have passed, we will have a choice. Do we continue to resist, or do we embrace the new opportunities that these new days present to us?
I like to reframe this ‘deadly’ statement so it becomes “We’ve never tried it that way before!” It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. It becomes an expression of wonder and openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst. It allows us to embrace the new thing that God is doing. It gives us the grace to try being in ministry in ways that may at first seem uncomfortable, but hopefully will soon become welcome and familiar.
We have returned to worship in the sanctuary… some of it feels familiar… but some of it feels quite different. We have been grateful to receive communion once more… but we miss our wine and home-baked bread. We love hearing Molly play the organ… but speaking the words of hymns may leave us longing to break out in song. But we also are grateful for the opportunity to once again be together… reunited as the Body of Christ in our church home.
As we go through the months ahead, there are other changes that will feel different for us all. As you saw in the Annual Report, the Finance Committee and I determined that Faith could no longer support a full-time minister, and I proposed a plan for a ¾-time position that was approved by Council and the Congregation. This plan primarily means that I will have fewer office hours.
At times it may require greater participation from the congregation to be able to continue some of our ministry efforts… helping to lead Bible studies, phoning or visiting shut-ins, and even covering Sundays I am away. But we will adapt and we will move forward…as long as we do it together… and especially as long as we rely on Christ to carry us through!
I invite you to open yourselves to the ongoing work of the Spirit among us as we seek to be faithful in all things. We may not know a lot about what all of this will look like, but we do know that God is with us, and will continue to lead us and guide us into our what comes next. Let’s keep making room for the ‘new wine’ God will bring!
Your partner in ministry, Pastor Debby