We are in transition again? Looks that way. A number of Grace Presbytery churches are making (or have made) strategic plans for in-person re-openings.

According to the research of Deloitte, a multi-national professional services network, the #1 pursuit, interest and need for people in 2021 is a sense of [belonging].

After 12 long months of self-guarding during the pandemic, people are longing and hungering for connection with one other. So how do we move ahead, back to more in-person gatherings, without escalating the pandemic?

How do we do “hybrid church,” both virtually and in-person? How do we move from being the inherited church that expressed the spirituality of the 20th century to being an emerging church that ministers to people today?

I am reminded of Thomas Merton, the Trappist Monk who restored many contemplative practices to the spiritual formation repertoire. He said, “You do not need to know precisely what is happening or where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”

We learn to move ahead in these moments; hours and days of uncertainty as we are “getting on the balcony above the dance floor (Hefitz and Linsky).” The first and foremost challenge of courage, faith, and hope is seeing how the world has changed because of COVID-19 and adapting to how the spiritual landscape is changing.

It is exciting to stay on the dance floor and enjoy life as we have known it. It is another thing to courageously go to the balcony and observe how we are called to be the church, the presence of Jesus, now ─ in our hurting and hungry, divided and disappointed communities.

There are no one-size-fits-all game plans to move ahead. What works well for one church will not work effectively for another. What we all need is to embrace with courage, faith, and hope the new opportunities to engage people into the life-giving community of Jesus Christ.

Living into God’s vision for the world,

Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Shive serves as interim general presbyter for Grace Presbytery. Prior to his arrival in Texas, he led the Presbytery of Wyoming as general presbyter. Steve is husband of 35 years to Doris, father to Claire and Jordan, and a proud Auburn war eagle.