It will be the same, only different.

I’m writing this article from my home in Maryland.  We made a quick trip back to take care of some business matters and check on our house.  Usually we drive about halfway stopping for the night somewhere near Dayton, Ohio.  That way the trip is broken up into two 8-hour shifts. In making this trip we decided to drive straight through so that we wouldn’t put ourselves at risk for COVID-19.  Driving the entire sixteen hours was risky enough.  However, I’m used to driving long distances, and we made the trip just fine – tired but safe.

Driving across country is one of my favorite things to do.  I never get tired of the feeling of the open road. Okay, I could skip the cities with all their congestion and crazy drivers but give me the wide-open spaces and I’m a happy man.  I love watching the ever-changing topography; from the plains to the mountains; from the rivers to the seas.  I also like getting a glimpse of what life might be like in these different places.  Getting to know people from various parts of the country is one of the things I’ve enjoyed about interim ministry.  So, you can imagine how anxious I was to see what the effect of COVID-19 was having on cross country travel. 

Here is what I found: basically, there was not a whole lot of difference than before.  Yes, it’s true, there were a less cars on the road, but a lot more trucks.  Stopping to get gas was the same routine except most people were wearing masks and seemed anxious not to engage or even look at one another.  Using bathrooms brought on its own anxiety (you have to go but you really don’t want to).  We did stop at some rest areas, but again found the same kind of anxiety there.  Fast food restaurants were open, but there were not many customers (we packed our own food for the trip).  We didn’t see many cars in the hotels we passed, either.  It all just seemed a little strange.  It was all the same as before, but just different enough to give you the sense that nothing would ever be the same.

This all brings me to the church and how I believe we are going to have a similar experience to my trip home.  It will be the same, only different.  Those expecting things to back to normal will probably be a little disappointed.  Those who are apprehensive about returning to church with the epidemic still in effect, will be surprised at how much hasn’t changed which may also be upsetting.  My point is that nothing we do is going satisfy everyone.  In reopening the church we will, no doubt, make some errors in judgment.  Feelings will probably get frayed.  But that’s just the nature of things, isn’t it?   We are all going to have to be gracious toward one another as we make adjustments that we all can live with.  Until then, let’s all pray and work toward the goal of, not just attending church, but being the church.
 
In the service of Christ,
Pastor Paul