To paraphrase Peter Pan, “I don’t want to go back.” Well, really I do, but I am not without some anxiety about it. And it seems like I am in the majority. In an online pole asking “Are you nervous about the pandemic ending?,” more than 80% leaned toward “Yes, I’m not ready to go back to ‘normal.’” I can identify several sources of my anxiety. I suspect you may well be able to relate to them. So, I ask myself should I feel guilty about my anxiety? Should I accept return to ‘normal’ or is this perhaps an opportunity for meaningful change?
A lot of us had the opportunity to work from home this past year. To start with, some things are actually more relaxed when working from home. For me, Sunday morning has become a very different experience. No hurrying to church to make sure all is in order (as if I could do anything about it if it wasn’t anyway). No trying to make sure I got the right color vestments on and centered. Are the candles lit? For the past year, I have taken my cup of coffee from the kitchen to the “Zoom studio” in the dining room and fire up the computer. I can spend a full half hour before church socializing ,and we can all see and hear each other. What a gift!
However, some of our most cherished activities and traditions of long standing have not been feasible in the past year. I have missed the community dinners, and the Christmas party and more. We have learned some things have we not? Who knew what fun it could be to sing Christmas songs in the parking lot during a snow storm. Who would have thought we could have participants and speakers from all over the country to our little church. A couple of classic phrases I have not heard much in the past year are: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And “But we have always done it that way.”
When we locked down the building last March, it was by necessity and seemed instantaneous. Change was not optional. I am proud of how we pulled together to make an alternative plan and implemented it on the fly. It was kind of fun to design the plane while in flight! I admit, we have not had a perfect flight plan. I worry about some left out. But then who knew even our most senior members could be successful Zoomers.
I suspect your personal story of the pandemic has the same elements of losses, frustrations, adjustments, and even some new learnings and joys. The good news is that with the more gradual end of the pandemic we probably have at least a bit more time for meaningful response than when we experienced heightened anxiety of the lockdown.
As we are emerging from the restrictions of the pandemic is a great time to reflect and take action on what we have learned in the past year. What are the new habits we want to keep? What parts of our pre-pandemic life do we want to restore? What parts do we want to graciously retire? Spring is a great time for new beginnings. Maybe Peter Pan did not really want to grow up. But I think one thing that the pandemic has not changed is we as individuals and churches do want to continue to grow in how we love God and love neighbor. With Pentecost Sunday coming up, May 23, we can celebrate the Holy Spirit being with us and guiding us in this endeavor.
Robert J. Gustafson, Ph.D., P.E, is pastor of West Berlin Presbyterian Church, 2911 Berlin Station Road.