Formal or Casual?
As far back as I can remember, our family has watched, cheered for, and even cried about college basketball. It has been a regular part of my winter and early spring for decades and over that time the length of the shot clock and the importance of the 3-pointer has changed. Yet, for decade after decade the coaches dressed in coats and ties or full suits on the sidelines.
Until this season, with all the restrictions in place because of the pandemic almost all the coaches have shifted to more casual attire on the sidelines. The passion, yelling, and frustration levels of the coaches does not seem to have decreased but how they dress has clearly changed. During a game this past weekend, one of the broadcasters asked the other broadcaster if he thought the more relaxed dress would continue after the pandemic. And the response was I hope so.
Which got me thinking. The way the coaches dress before the pandemic had been something that I noticed because of the crazy ties or sports coats that some coaches chose, but did it really change what was happening on the court?
In the overall picture of changes that have come from the pandemic, college basketball coaches dressing more casually for games is very minor, but it also shines a light on something that has been done for years that has changed during the pandemic. There will be people who think it is great that coaches are dressing more casually and there will be those who are frustrated that coaches look less professional on the sidelines. My guess is that in the long run some coaches will return to dressing more formally while others will remain more casual because whether they dress formally or casually, the focus is on the players and the game.
Within the church some have celebrated worship services being broadcast over the internet while others are mentally counting the days until they return to in person worship services. And much like with the coaches in the end some congregations will continue to offer virtual options for worship and others will return to being entirely in person as each congregation strives to faithfully worship God.
The important thing is that whether a congregation is worshipping in person or virtually (or following the example of Paul by sharing mailed epistles as at least one congregation is doing), we are called to turn to God faithfully and sincerely through worship. Whether we are more formal or casual, the focus is not on us but on worshipping and serving the Lord.
In the coming weeks and months, we will be faced many times with the question of continuing a new thing we began during the pandemic or returning to how things were before. My hope is that rather than just quickly deciding to either return to how we have always done things or moving forward in the new direction, we will instead explore “Why do we do the things we do? Why do we do things that way and not another way?”
It seems appropriate to raise these questions during the season of Lent. During this time of reflection and repentance, we have a unique opportunity to look deeply at how and why we come together as the church . . . how and why we faithfully and sincerely serve God and God’s people.
May the peace of Christ be with you this day and every day. Grace and peace, Bill Rev. William "Bill" McLean, II Presbyter for Congregational Care Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois