This weekend I had the joy of gathering with friends and colleagues for an in-person fellowship event for the first time in over fifteen months. It was only the second time since March 2020 that I gathered socially with more than one person outside of our four-person family.
While I had seen most of the people at the gathering multiple times over the past year plus, this was the first time that we were physically in the same place. Many of the conversations picked up where they had left off when we were last together (whether virtually or in-person). And it was a blessing to be able to talk and connect without fear of losing our internet connection or having to talk in front of 5, 10 or even 50 other people just to say hello to a friend.
As we return to in-person gatherings it is important that we are intentionally making space for the fellowship that has been lacking during the pandemic. Whether we have specific fellowship times separate from regular events or build the fellowship time into those standing events (such as worship or meetings), we need to provide opportunities for people to connect and share being in the space. What ways are you providing space for people to gather and connect as we can be together in-person?
We also need to take steps to ensure that those who remain unable to gather physically are not left out or left behind as we gather in common spaces. The pandemic has assisted us in finding new ways to connect with homebound members, individuals who travel for work / school / retirement, and those who have moved to other states (or even countries). Those important connections need to be maintained as we gather again in-person. How are you maintaining the connections that formed during the pandemic?
In addition to being a fun afternoon, it was a wonderful reminder of the importance of maintaining a balance between in-person and virtual gatherings. One of the things that has enhanced groups that have been meeting virtually is having made connections beyond the computer screen. Some of those connections are from a history of meeting in person before the pandemic and others are from phone calls, emails, and texts where we have created a meaningful connection.
On a personal note, THANK YOU!! for the wonderful event on Saturday at The Register Room in Effingham. It was delightful to have time to talk and gather that was not related to a meeting AND to see each other in more than a little square on my computer screen. A special thank you to the outstanding group who put the event together, please know that it was greatly appreciated!
May we build each other up as sisters and brothers in Christ today, tomorrow, and always.
Grace and peace, Bill Rev. William "Bill" McLean, II Presbyter for Congregational Care Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois