Note: This is a guest post written by Zach Labagh, Pastor at Allegheny Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mohnton, PA.
In the last few months, due to the pandemic, I found myself and my family changing how we function completely.
Our calendar that was full has now diminished to online and digital meetings and work. Two months ago we never would have thought that for a month we would have been at home living minimally.
Living more minimally has giving me an opportunity to look over what is important to the work that I do, as a pastor, and focus on what’s important to accomplish. How I check in with members and guests of the church has changed. And as we look forward to the future, I’ve realized that all we’ve let go of at this point has allowed us to create something new.
What’s Actually Important?
St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2
I believe we are in the midst of a new transformation. We have realized as a nation, and culture, what truly is important for our lives and for the sake of others.
We have sought not to conform to the old way but to recognize that giving up some of what we used to have, what we held onto as “vital” for our lives isn’t really as “vital” as we once thought.
And now we are challenged to do something new. Can we transform? Can we seek to create something that is new around us? Or are we just focused on going back to “normal” of what was normal 3 months ago?
Living new lives, I hope my family and I are finding new ways to be “normal.” Our children (13 and 12) are now in charge of creating a dinner (or meal) a week. They are responsible for making sure the ingredients are all there or checking to see if there is a substitute or putting it on the list for when we venture out to the store. Beyond that, they both have begun cleaning out their rooms, finding toys and clothes that are not needed/used or don’t fit anymore and giving them away.
This time has really sought to teach us what is important for our lives. Often that is what adversity does for us—though often we don’t recognize that until much later after the fact.
Our Changing World
How we move forward opens us up to transformation. It opens us up to experience God, who is coming after us and guiding us for the sake of others.
How do we live out our faith in these “new days”? If we are honest, we typically struggle with abrupt changes like we have right now.
Yet we live in a world that is continually changing. We struggle to hold onto the past—even when we see a future that can be full of life, but is different than we expected.
As a pastor, I never thought I’d be having digital/online worship every week for two months or more. Yet it has brought many of our members into a different relationship with each other. We have been able to reach out to new people and connect with some who haven’t been onsite for many years.
People are Important
Our world has changed dramatically in many ways, yet what I see is this pandemic has allowed us to recognize what’s most important.
People’s lives are important. This means that I have to be aware not just how I feel, but also aware of how my actions affect someone else, or put another at risk?
We are being transformed. We are having to face ourselves and our willingness to put others ahead of ourselves, or as Jesus states, to serve others.
Do I want to go back to onsite worship? Absolutely.
Is it safe to do so at this time, where I serve? No. Our congregation is a diverse group of people from infants to people in their 90s, and our priority is to keep everyone safe.
And so, we create new.
We reworked our service to go online. We changed our method of worship so we can continue with our mission to serve others and help people to have a personal relationship with a Gracious God.
When we look around us, we see how we can engage people differently while letting go of certain ways to serve and worship for now. Like my family, we as the Church are continually seeking new ways to engage and create new.
So we continue to move forward—not knowing what tomorrow will bring, making plans that could end up changing later. It is a time of flexibility, of figuring out how to live in the moment, to live in the world, and be transformed.
Let us be grateful for all we have. We may lament what we’ve had to let go. But we can look forward to what is being created new.