New Year, Same Challenges. Follow the Light!

by Mary C. Frances

We couldn’t have imagined we’d still be here last March. No, we couldn’t have imagined then that we would still be here now but here we are physically distanced, doing drive-through worship, showing up on Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube.  And, somehow, some way…by the grace of God, it’s working, it’s all working.  And it needs to keep working for quite some time.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with a public health expert.  Someone who lives in the world of exposures and workplace safety.  Someone who has no skin in the game except to keep people safe.  He said hunker down.  The worst is yet to come.  We have another 9-12 months ahead of us before we can feel safe gathering in groups indoors.  A year?!  Another year?  We definitely didn’t see that coming last March!  

But maybe that news could be freeing.  Rather than looking ahead for each corner we need to turn in order to go back to the way things were before, what if we let go of that and just focus on what’s ahead, focus on the new year?  What if we dove into the next year with creativity, energy, grace, and adaptability without worrying about being in our buildings?  Could this be our best year of ministry yet?

We have access to so many great tools.  We often focus on our buildings as a tool because they’ve been so front and center.  But we also have the grounds of our buildings, the parking lot, courtyards, sidewalks, yards, and our neighborhoods.  We have the internet and all the 24/7 digital access we could use.  We have cars, amplifiers, apps and smart volunteers who can help make new things happen.  So, let’s look at the next year as an exercise in adaptive ministry with less focus on our buildings and more focus on that ministry outside the box – or just outside – as we’ve been talking about for decades.

Here’s an idea to start things off.  The new year starts with the feast of Epiphany, just as everyone is coming down off the holidays (whatever that will look like) and wondering how to get through the rest of the long winter.  Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, Festival of Light, or the Baptism of Jesus.    There are some interesting traditions associated with Epiphany that include Three Kings cake, taking down Christmas decorations, and chalking the door or blessing the house.  Why not gather some teams of people (wearing masks, of course) to go to the homes of your church members and their neighbors and offer a socially-distanced house blessing?  Invite people to put luminaria outside their home to celebrate the Festival of Lights and light the way for those blessing homes.  Of course, January can feel long and dark, but this could brighten things up considerably.  And who doesn’t need a house blessing these days?!