When will things go back to normal?
When will things go back to normal? This question is being asked a lot lately. If you type the phrase “returning to normal” in Google it takes 0.56 seconds to return about 390,000,000 results. The top three results are:
“Coronavirus variant dampens prospects for return to normal …” The Harvard Gazette
“Coronavirus In 2021 And Beyond: When Will Life Return to …” WBUR NPR Boston
“COVID-19: we will not be returning to the old normal – The …” The Lancet
The current pandemic is not the first time that this question has been asked. After major events or tragedies, it is common to want things to return to how they used to be. Yet, things have changed and will never be exactly as they were pre-pandemic. Much like things changed after 9/11 and we adjusted to a new normal. Or earlier after both World Wars, things changed and adjustments were made.
The transition is not always smooth because there will be missteps and wrong turns along the way as well as efforts to slow or block the change. Yet, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with saying, “You could not step twice into the same river.” As the water flows, as time flows, as events happen, the world and each of us is changed. It is not possible to go back to the way things used to be.
Which provides us with a powerful opportunity to build on what we have learned during the pandemic and combine it with what was successful before the pandemic. While also empowering us to let go of things that prevent us from living fully in the world around us.
This is seen in the plans to have more meetings happen virtually to reduce driving time, impact on the environment, and personal wear & tear. We are also continuing to provide opportunities for fellowship and interaction outside of meetings, both virtually and eventually in person as well.
Congregations are living this out as they continue to worship virtually even as some have begun to experiment with options for safely returning to in person worship services. It is maintaining the links that have been made with the homebound, those who have moved away, and those not able to physically be in the sanctuary for worship while creating opportunities for those who can safely be in the same place.
What things from the pandemic response will you be continuing in the weeks and months ahead? What things from before the pandemic will you be letting go of so that you can be present in the world around you?
As we adjust to the changing world around us, let us remember that we are not alone. God is with us, guiding us, and supporting us. And may the peace of Christ be with you in this season of change.
Grace and peace, Bill Rev. William "Bill" McLean, II Presbyter for Congregational Care Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois