An article came through my inbox recently that truly felt like a bit of fresh air as I read it, and so I thought I’d pass it along and offer my own thoughts to the author’s. Even though it is an article from an organization that focuses on Christian Formation and Education, I hope it might speak some peace to you and your own contexts.
(You can read the article HERE, but I’ll also summarize below.)
Sarah Bentley Allred writes from within a congregational context that sounds strangely similar to Columbus Mennonite. They only recently began gathering for worship in person, yet with COVID-19 cases once again on the rise, they are being confronted with hard questions about the best way to move forward. She writes about how overwhelming it can feel to live in the many tensions that exist during this time of uncertainty. There are tensions between wanting to keep people safe but fearing loss of connection, between recognizing that many parents are hesitant to send kids back to in-person Sunday School but seeing just how “Zoomed out” kids are. There are also tensions between those who are ready to return to in-person programming and the reality that finding volunteer leaders for those programs feels nearly impossible.
Allred naming these tensions so clearly is what caught my attention, but she doesn’t end there. Instead, she suggests that in the midst of so much uncertainty it can be helpful to find “handholds,” phrases that offer some solid ground to come back to when everything else feels like it is shifting around you. She offers three that she finds comforting:
I know more than I think I do: We have been learning to live with the pandemic for a while now, and we have developed so many tools and skills. Even as new challenges arise, we can trust that we have wisdom and insight to bring to these challenges.
The Church is us: When the pandemic first started, we leaned into this truth because we needed it while we had to be physically separated. The ability to return to in-person gatherings has been great, but as the pandemic necessitates new or continued periods of physical separation, we must continue to remember that the Church is not a building but the people.
A Settled Body Settles Other Bodies: Part of caring for each other in the middle of so much anxiety and stress is learning to care for ourselves by finding the solid ground we need. Whether you are navigating the uncertainties of the pandemic with co-workers, children, extended family, or any others, it is important to find ways to settle our own bodies so that our interactions can be as life-giving and constructive as possible.
Allred’s three “handholds” spoke to me and inspired me to think of my own to add to the list. As I think about the uncertainty of figuring out Sunday School for the upcoming year, I come back to this handhold: “Kids have as much to teach as they have to learn.” It certainly doesn’t fix the problems we face, but it does give me something to build from.
What handholds are bringing you comfort these days?