Our paths over the past 2 years haven’t been as clearly marked as we would have liked. The pandemic introduced enough changes that it felt like we were losing our way. Apart from the obvious issues associated with health and disease, there were also concerns of financial distress, social distress, disconnection, and religious freedom. Fortunately things haven’t been as bad as predicted in those areas. But it has caused us to reflect a lot on where we are going — especially in the church. It reminded me a little of driving.
Eva and I have spent the last two years in Canada. We had initially planned only 3 months but … COVID-19. While in Canada we got the chance to be reacquainted with Canadian weather; or more specifically driving in Canadian weather. We saw it all, from burning hot days with nothing but dust to blinding snowstorms. It reminded me of real life. The past 23 months have certainly been interesting, and I expect that things haven’t entirely returned to normal just yet. Who knows how many more months of uncertainty there are?
When driving, the goal is to stay on the road but sometimes that isn’t as easy as we think it might be. Here are some examples:
Some roads are clearly marked with nice lines, they are paved, they are dry, it’s daytime, and the sun is shining when you are driving. There is nothing better than this. We often have days like this, don’t we? We are in the groove and everything seems to be going all right.
Sometimes there is snow on the road. But even if this is the case, when the road is plowed you can still drive between the lines with some changes. Instead of two lanes, only one is available. Instead of being able to travel at normal speeds, snow and ice force us to slow down. But we keep on driving.
When the road isn’t plowed you hope there is someone who has already gone down it so you know generally where you need to go too. You will also need to use a technique my Dad called, “Driving by the seat of your pants.” This means that we drive more by feel than by sight. We can even say, “Walk by faith and not by sight.” But we keep on driving, cautiously.
Sometimes the weather takes over and makes things extremely difficult. When you are driving in freezing rain you need to use all your resources. Turn the heat up full blast on the defroster. Use the wipers and fluid constantly. Stop every now and then and clear the windshield. Open the side window to know where you need to turn. But we keep on driving, slowly and cautiously.
Sometimes you can’t even see the world around you. When the snow is still falling, and blowing, and you can’t see more than 3 metres in front of you, and you spend each moment in fear wondering if you are going to hit the ditch, or worse, drive off a cliff in the mountains, you need to rely on your wits in order to make it. Have you driven the road before? Does the GPS tell you where the curves are? Can you see anyone’s tail lights ahead? But we keep on driving, foolishly.
This is perhaps how many felt when the pandemic began because the pandemic affected the roads that the church normally drives down. Eva and I arrived in Canada on a Monday, with great plans to visit friends and churches from Port Alberni to Thunder Bay. By Thursday of that same week all of those plans went out the window because of the implementation of anti-COVID-19 measures. All of a sudden we were doing church by the seat of our pants. It was quite the ride. We all became experts at new things: Zoom, preaching to a camera, uploading videos to Vimeo, livestreaming, building community in new ways. It was weird. It was uncomfortable. But somehow it worked.
We did manage to visit friends and churches — in fact we spoke in more churches than we could have if we can been in person. The ministry of the South East Asian Theological Schools boomed with more classes and students from around the world. We connected with lots of people on Zoom. We even celebrated a significant birthday with nothing more than a computer, some videos, and and internet connection. We kept on driving — and so did you!
We know this because we have talked to many of you. We discussed plans for how to do church in a pandemic. We debated on Facebook about the proper approaches we needed to take. We chatted on Zoom about the future of the church. We even taught classes about what to do next. We used all the resources available to us: Theology, church history, Biblical studies, Christian fellowship, meetings, conversations, books, blog posts, videos, and sermons. Even though the road was treacherous at times, we now appear to be coming out of it (I hope). And guess what? The church is still here. People are still committed. Hope continues to be renewed. The mission continues. And we have lots of new understanding and tools to use for the future.
God is good!
How has it been for you? What kind of “driving” have you been doing lately and how have the roads been? How has your church been made stronger because of the trials of the past 2 years?
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Image is mine.