In my more than 30 years of ministry, nothing prepared me for what I was about to encounter one year ago both personally and professionally- none of us were. Words like pivot, unprecedented, Zoom and ‘you’re muted’ were not a regular part of my lexicon. Within a few short days, we, as Church, were forced to re-imagine what it meant to be the Body of Christ in the world.
Immediately, we were fumbling to find new ways to be the ‘gathered community’ in worship. The technical learning curve was very steep, and the sense of inadequacy and uncertainty about just about everything became an ever-present condition for me. It felt as though no matter what I did, it just was not good enough; this was not what I signed up for all those years ago.
But as time wore on, it occurred to me that this was perhaps God’s wake up call to us as the Church. It has shaken us out of our complacency, it has driven us to really get down to determining what is most important and has breathed new life into an institution that is struggling to reclaim and re-define its identity in the world.
God, the disrupter, has laid bare before us the reality that God’s presence, God’s love and grace is most realized in the faces, in the embraces, in the hearts of those around us- our families, friends, colleagues. Relationships matter and we are incomplete without one another. For too long we have taken that for granted and not paid enough attention to the lonely, dispossessed, and isolated. Loneliness kills! God for me has been found most profoundly in the smallest gestures.
I have deeply appreciated the unexpected effect of our online gatherings. Our small parish community now stretches across the country re-uniting us with former friends and extended family members. And what we lose in physical connection and touch, we gain through the ease of face-to-face screen encounters. I have personally reconnected with an old family friend, a priest from Kelowna B.C. who I had not spoken to in thirty years and is now an occasional “attendee” at our on-line worship.
The blessing of this time will continue to emerge but what has really been made clear in all of this is who really is at the helm of our lives.
Michael is the rector of Church of the Incarnation, Oakville and serves as the Archdeacon of Leadership for the diocese.