A new day
There is a camp song that we often sang as a breakfast prayer. It has been in my head several mornings lately:
God has created a new day, silver and green and gold.
Live that the sunset may find us, worthy God’s gifts to hold.
We have had a few days to adjust to vacation pace, which I think may be close to retirement pace. Of course we don’t yet know, but one of the first things that I did when we reached the end of our active working days was to turn off the alarm that woke me each morning. I don’t think I’m sleeping that much more than before, but I am definitely sleeping a little bit more. It feels good. I’ve always loved the morning, waking to birdsong and listening to the world waking up around me. The low light angles gives the world a special hue and invites me to connect to the natural world.
Our camper is parked at our son and daughter-in-law’s place and we are surrounded by gardens. There are poppies blooming right outside our door and before long the sunflowers will be showing off their color. We can pick fresh strawberries and huckleberries from the yard and enjoy them with our breakfast.
Despite the intention to raise only hens, one of this spring’s chicks is a rooster and our daughter-in-law has been advertising a free rooster to give away, but so far there have been no takers. So we even have the morning crowing to remind me of the days when I was going up.
In the predawn light the colors are more muted. Silver and green and gold are among the dominant colors that I see as I wake. It really does feel as if each day is new and fresh and an expression of ongoing creation.
Last night we had a discussion about how the coronavirus pandemic is re-shaping some of the institutions of our society. Our daughter-in-law asked specifically about what changes we think will occur within the church as a result of the shift away from live, in-person worship to help prevent rapid spread of the virus. Of course there are some obvious differences, like changes in how the building is cleaned, the addition of hand-washing stations near the entrances, and spreading out the tables in the fellowship hall, that will probably become long-term changes. Offering people ways to pass the peace without direct contact will continue. It is likely that the use of social media such as live-streaming worship will also continue. The use of media to reach out beyond the walls of the building extends the ministry of the church.
However, the core of the church is relationship and I suspect that building relationships and forming community will always be a process that involves meeting face to face. As the church figures ways to gather safely, live worship will resume and little by little there will be a return to the community functions of working together, sharing food together and gathering for study, prayer and fellowship.
We won’t however, simply return to the way things were before. There will be people who have gotten out of the habit of rising on Sunday mornings for worship. They will continue to stay at home and listen to worship on the computer. There will be others who will have drifted away who never return.
Dramatically for us, we will have shifted our role in the community during the pandemic. There are a lot of uncertainties about our future right now, but one thing we know for sure is that we will be joining a new church family. It is hard to do so when the congregation is not meeting in person, but we will be making new connections. Our role in the congregation, however, will be a different one. We’ve been pastors for much of our adult lives. Now we will be members who aren’t leading worship every week. We’ll be able to participate in new ways.
God is still speaking, still creating, still bringing forth newness. Perhaps the colors will be more subtle, the hues more muted. Perhaps there will be new and different bright spots that stand out to us. We don’t yet know the details.
We have been looking at homes in the immediate neighborhood as we take our daily walks. Sometimes we notice a home for sale and after we have returned from our walk we look up the details on the Internet. We talk about what it might be like to live in a particular house in the neighborhood. We haven’t yet begun the process of shopping for a new home. We don’t intend to rush into anything. We’re taking a couple of weeks vacation and then we head back to Rapid City to begin the hard work of preparing our home there for sale. Before we move, we have a lot of sorting and cleaning and preparing to do. Our house can use a few repairs and a bit of paint to be ready to show to prospective buyers. Some of our things will go into storage as a part of the preparation to move.
Since we finished graduate school we have always moved because of the call of a particular congregation to come to be pastors in their community. We have moved into an already formed community that is eager to have new leadership. This move is different. We are moving to family, who are eager for us to be settled here. Our grandchildren are sleeping in our camper as I write. We are being embraced by love and community. We have done quite a bit of research about neighboring congregations, but since none are meeting for in-person worship, it is hard to know what it will feel like once we become settled.
For now, it is a process of recognizing the on-going process of creation. New things are emerging. Our lives won’t just go on being the same.
It is good to wake each day with a song and a prayer:
God is creating a new day, silver and green and gold.
Live that the sunset may find us worthy God’s gifts to hold.