Looking Back, Moving Forward

A good friend asked me recently “If you were pastoring a church today what would you preach on?” My quick response was “How do we love God and neighbor in a post pandemic future?”

As I pondered his question a little more deeply however I found myself looking back over the last year and the important questions it has taught and I realized I need to reframe my response to “How do I maintain the disciplines I learned during COVID as a part of my new normal for a post pandemic world?” Maybe you would like to join me in this exploration. 

How do I maintain the disciplines I learned during COVID as a part of my new normal for a post pandemic world? ~ Christine Sine Click To Tweet

One of the first things most of us noticed last year was how quiet the world was without cars and planes. The first lesson I learned, along with many others, was to appreciate silence and the joy of shutting out the world so that I could listen more intentionally to God. Now as I start to move outside the house it is easy to forget the importance of those silent times and I am struggling to maintain this important discipline in my life. What I realize is that I need to schedule retreat days and away times that are specifically designated for this purpose and I am encouraged to see that a growing number of churches are advocating such events too.  How about you and your church?

How are you responding to the need for silence in your lives?

The second lesson was how much the pollution of cars, planes and industry clouded my view of God and God’s world. In those early days as life seemed to grind to a halt, the world sparkled with a clarity of light that took my breath away and I loved the way that bird song rose in volume to fill the silent void. The planes and cars are back now and pollution once more clouds our view.

What actions do I need to take so that this clarity we all experienced becomes the new normal for all the planet and creatures of God’s world?

Third, during those days, like so many others, I walked my neighborhood as never before. I got to know its streets, its local businesses, its gardens and its broken places. I prayed for those who lived around me, greeted them as I walked and began to feel that this was a place I truly belonged. Someone coined the term “slow travel” for such walks, I prefer my own term “awe and wonder walks”. Such walks could easily become a thing of the past for all of us.

How do we maintain routines that keep us rooted in our neighborhoods and the joys and pains that it holds?

Associated with this was the growing desire to get our hands in the dirt. Last year many of us ripped out our lawns and planted vegetable gardens. Some of us were concerned about food insecurity for our families. Others realized that this was one way they could help those who live in a state of chronic food insecurity. In the process many of us became aware that getting our hands in the dirt not only made us happier and healthier, it also connected us to God and the story of God in new and special ways. Then as the country opened up, we also recognized that gardens could be good places to gather outdoors away from the threat of infection. Now, as we move more of our meetings inside, it is easy to forget these lessons.

How do we encourage the continued connection to the soil that I believe is an important part of what God has made us to do?

As the pandemic progressed many of us also became aware of the ugliness in our culture. The injustices that meant more black and hispanic people died of COVID, lost their jobs and their homes and plummeted into economic insecurity than those who are white was a stark reality of inequality that many of us had not noticed before. The violent deaths of George Floyd and others shook us to the core and many churches responded with racial awareness groups and racial reconciliation events.

How do we ensure that the motivation engendered by the pandemic keeps these groups flourishing and growing?  

So as we all strive to find the new normal that will guide us forward into the future, I encourage you to invite your congregation into a discernment time that looks back over this last year and the lessons we have all learned. Encourage each person to think about not only how they can love God and neighbor more effectively in the future, but also how they can strengthen the disciplines they acquired during COVID that strengthens and nourished their faith. 

About the Author

Christine Sine

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Christine Aroney-Sine is the founder and facilitator for the popular contemplative blog Godspace, which grew out of her passion for creative spirituality, gardening and sustainability. Together with her husband, Tom, she also co-founded Mustard Seed Associates. She has authored many books, the most recent being The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices For Delighting in God. Christine describes herself as a contemplative activist, passionate gardener, author, and liturgist. .

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