Being in Relationship
One of the challenges that many of us have faced during the long months of the pandemic has been isolation and being physically separated from others. We have not been able to gather for worship and fellowship in traditional ways. Beyond the congregation we are limited in ways to connect because restaurants are not open for indoor dining or have size restrictions on groups that prevent us from being together. Crowds are not allowed at sporting events, theatre productions, or the movies. All this combined can cause us to feel disjointed as we are not able to gather with friends, family, or church family like we normally would.
Yet, throughout the ages the church has come together as a community of believers in good times and in not so good times. When thousands gather to worship at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium and when a handful of people gather to worship in the parking lot after a natural disaster, we are building on our tradition of community.
We are building on the example of the followers of Jesus who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) And as Presbyterians, we continue to lift up this belief when support through our actions the Book of Order’s affirmation that “The Church is to be a community of faith, ... hope, ... love, ... [and] witness”. (F-1.03)
We can follow the practical guidance and wisdom from the community of believers in Acts that carries across the centuries. When we intentionally focus time and energy on being in relationship with one another. When we gather for Christian education on Zoom while we cannot be in the same room. When we participate in virtual conferences because the event has moved online. When we gather for fellowship around a virtual coffee hour. When we gather at the table for communion in our living rooms instead of the sanctuary. When we gather for daily prayer or seasonal prayer services on Facebook.
And whether during a pandemic, or more normal times, a critical component of our being a community is that we are called to love one another. As Paul reminds us “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-2)
Some people are extroverts while others are introverts. Some people are innovators with adopting new technology while others live in areas where reliable cellular phone service still does not exist. Yet no matter what our differences are, we are called to be in community and to love one another just as Jesus loves us.
As we journey through the eleventh month of the pandemic, let us work together to remain a community so that we stay in relationship with each other even when we cannot be together.
Grace and peace, Bill Rev. William "Bill" McLean, II Presbyter for Congregational Care Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois