This month’s worship theme is Becoming, and I cannot help but think how seasonally appropriate that is. The bulbs that have lain dormant in the cold earth are just now becoming crocuses and daffodils. The buds on the trees, too, are about to burst, becoming flowers of many kinds and colors. With the Search Committee having concluded its deliberations (and, presumedly, by the time you read this, having made an offer to one candidate), a new settled ministry is that much closer to becoming a reality.
Some “becomings,” like the arrival of spring, are especially easy to celebrate and enjoy. Other “becomings,” no matter how exciting they might be, can also be rather nerve-wracking and anxiety-provoking. We are waiting to see what will happen, what will unfold, in our country and in your congregation, as both this year-long pandemic and this two-year interim period begin to wind down. We are beginning to anticipate and imagine a partial re-opening of church with a new minister at the helm.
“What will become of us?” we wonder. What will it be like to re-open the building, and when will that even happen anyway? What will “hybrid” worship look and feel like? How will your collective future unfold?
By now you have hopefully had a chance to see the 7-minute video describing one possible vision for hybrid worship and proposing an investment in technology that would allow for it. About fifty of you were able to attend a meeting last Sunday to raise questions and provide valuable feedback to that vision and proposal.
I do want to be clear that the only decision regarding this proposal that you are being asked to make at the annual meeting has to do with allocating the funds necessary to purchase the proposed technology. This technology would, in essence, serve two broad functions:
- To make continued quality off-site worship possible, which will be important as you move to a partial reopening of the church building and sanctuary; and,
- To allow for the possibility of enhanced on-site worship, as well as other potential uses in the sanctuary that would be served by improved video capacity.
To be clear, no decisions have been made – or are about to be made – about how that technology would be used or about what future worship services will look like. The “hybrid worship” working group raised some possible answers to those questions, but of course, it would not be prudent to make any such decisions without input and guidance from the new minister and without opportunities for feedback from the congregation. We have merely started a conversation. As such, your continued feedback is both welcome and encouraged.
My sense is that with all of this “becoming” happening all at once, anxiety is higher now than perhaps it has been at any previous time during this interim. That is not at all uncommon. Change is in the air and change is stressful. And we’ve already undergone a lot of collective stressful change together over the course of the last year and more.
A number of people have reported to me recently that even as the pandemic begins to wind down and even as more and more people report getting their vaccine, they are finding that they are feeling more anxious, more jittery, more irritable, less able to focus or concentrate, more tired and/or more depressed. I have certainly felt some of that, too.
This week, a member of First Parish sent me the link to a very helpful On Being podcast called “What’s Happening in Our Nervous Systems.” In it, Krista Tippet interviews Christine Runyan, who is a clinical psychologist and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and a certified mindfulness teacher. You can find the interview here:
If you can spare an hour, I highly recommend that you listen to it. I listened to the interview yesterday while walking on my treadmill. (Two proverbial birds with one stone, as they say!) If you cannot afford an hour to listen, I recommend that you read through the transcript. The wisdom contained in the interview just may be the medicine you need to help you get through the next batch of exciting, but still somewhat stressful “becomings!”
In faith and hope and the spirit of love,