Some days, I wonder what things would be like if the pandemic hadn't come.
As a newbie to the Eastern shore, I wonder which local festival would be my favorite, having been able to attend every single one of them at least once. (Probably the Harry Potter!) I wonder which businesses would have made it instead of closing. I wonder what the Chorale would sound like (probably rocking the house last Christmas and about to rock it again!) I wonder about my sons, where they would live, and what their jobs would be. I wonder how much cheaper and faster some of our home renovations would have gone, with affordable and available materials and contractors not as swamped. I even pause to wonder which individuals would not have died, and who would not be grieving from their loss today.
As a new pastor, I also wonder about the church if the pandemic hadn't come within six weeks of my arrival. I wonder if this church's habit of attending worship in person (without masks) would have grown or remained steady, instead of shifting to significant online attendance. (Would we even offer online attendance?) I wonder what annual or new fellowship events, meals, or parties this church would have thrown. I wonder if there would be any remaining buzz about the "new" pastor, even a year and a half later. I wonder who would have come to visit from Malawi, and who would have gone to visit them.
I've also wondered what giving habits would be like. Would our giving have grown, or at least stabilized at post-Interim, pre-pandemic levels?
Then I begin to wonder, what if everyone had just followed the scientists, wore masks, kept distances, isolated and separated when exposed, gotten vaccinated early. How much closer to "normal" would we be today? What if everyone had gladly sacrificed a few personal privileges for the greater good, for the health and safety of the wider community? Why is that too much to ask of so many of our friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters?
Alas. These thoughts tempt us to imagine an alternate universe without a pandemic, and we live in an actual universe that still suffers the lingering effects of a pandemic. The pandemic has affected this community, this church, and every family in it. Whatever used to happen or could have happened, we cannot expect those anymore.
Our stewardship season for 2022 ends this weekend. On this Sunday, October 24, we will ask every member, family, friend, and supporter of this church to give back some monies to this church in 2022.
I imagine the pandemic has changed the way you do, feel, or need church. I know it has changed the way I pastor. I hope we will grab onto one another and hold on as the church continues to reach through and evolve beyond the lingering effects of the pandemic on all of us.
Each of you has received the Stewardship letter and invitation to pledge your support in 2022. If you haven't, please tap Patti in the church office (email@example.com) and she will make sure our info for you is correct, and you are connected to this opportunity.
Then, I hope each of you will prayerfully consider promising, pledging to give back generously in support of this church, our ministries and programs, our mission partners, our staff, and our property. 2022 will not be what we expected. But who knows, with enough support, it might just surprise us. Let's imagine so...
Blessing, laughter, and loving be yours,
Rev. Joel Tolbert