I visited one of our local churches last Sunday, only the second time since before Pandemic and the first time that I shared the morning message. Before I launched into my sermon, I took a minute to bring greetings on behalf of our siblings in the churches of the Northern California Nevada Conference and offer a word of gratitude for their partnership in the work we do together in the wider church.
Many of you have heard me say something similar in the past as I have joined you in worship. This time, after 18 months of not being able to look out on the gathered community as I spoke those words, I had a moment of awe that kind of took my breath away. This moment of awe was then accompanied by a deep, refreshing breath of gratitude. Such words are never just words to me and to say them in the company of my siblings is a reminder about how grateful I am for our community; for who we are as the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ community. This time, however, after so much time of not being able to worship in the same room with others, I had almost forgotten the amazing and beautiful energy that is present when we come together in a physical space.
The kind of relationship-building that happened during pandemic as we have gathered online and found new ways to interact is something I will always be grateful for. It was a real gift because it has created space to gather when the travel times sometimes keep us from getting together, even when there isn’t a pandemic. My experience at this church on Sunday was a reminder of the both/and in those gifts—being in the physical space with one another when we can and finding ways to relate to one another across space when that is a better choice for the situation.
Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, recently created this video of gratitude for church gifts to Our Church’s Wider Mission. I want to share it with you because his words also build on this theme for me—the ways we all need one another and the gratitude for community. We needed the support of each other to make it through pandemic and we need the support of one another to move forward into the mission and call that God has put before us in this time and into the future.
As we move into the “what’s next” and as we continue to deal with the struggles of pandemic, may we also be grateful for companions on the journey and faith communities that support us and sustain us when we need it the most.