We met yesterday for the first time in eleven weeks. Most of us still watched online, but 75 of us ventured out. I trust each of us made the best decision we could. It was good to see your faces again.
As I reflect on my experience, I'm surprised at how hard it was to not greet people in the usual way. The joy of fellowship is more than a hand shake or hug, but it sure is expressed in it. Without those things it feels awkward. Once I caught myself forgetting to talk, like somehow wearing a mask meant I had to signal with my hands and eyes. It feels silly to admit that. And to admit that I felt a bit lonely in the crowd. But still it was good to be together.
The restoration of our in person gathering is a bit of a milestone, and it makes me thankful.
Thank you to everyone for adjusting so easily to the changes we've made over the past couple months, and then again yesterday. Thank you for following directions, following the guidelines, putting other people needs and opinions ahead of your own. In fact, this has been a great opportunity to demonstrate the "mutual submission" of Christian community where we look not only to our own interests, but each of us to the interest of the others. (Philippians 2:4)
In responding to this opportunity, my goal has been to create the safest environment for the most vulnerable among us. The strong should always care for the weak. In the midst of this uncertainty, we have taken precautions that may eventually prove to be unnecessary. But I believe we've been safe without being scared.
My goal has also been to cooperate with the governing authorities, that we would be a joy to serve, not a burden. Again, I believe we have shown respect for those who lead us as public servants.
And my goals has been to keep us connected around a common worship experience by making it available online. We did that.
Now that some of us have begun connecting in person again, I want to remember those who continue to connect online. I do look forward to the day our in person venue is filled with people singing again. But I hope that we will always see online as more than just an "alternative" to the "real" gathering. May it continue to connect us with people who wouldn't otherwise be able to, whether separated by quarantine or by geographical distance.
But why connect? Why connect with each other? Why connect with anyone?
Two scriptures come to mind:
Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV)
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
And Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We need to connect! And the gift we've received the last couple months is the reminder of what we already knew: It's good to be together. But take away the possibility of gathering and we tend to find other ways to connect. It's human to do so. And it's Christian to do so.
Why do we connect?
Do you know anyone who needs any of those things? Try to connect with them.
Or perhaps you notice what's been missing in your own life. Or perhaps it reminds you of something that I didn't think to list. The thing is, don't neglect connecting.
I know it's hard right now, but do what you can to connect. People need you. And you need them. Connect in person if you can, or by phone, text, email, or video conference. Pray together, talk together, laugh together, hang out together if you can. Just be together and connect as people and as brothers and sisters in the family of God.
Until we meet again,
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.