As I looked back on my article in last year’s March Newsletter, I focused on renewed hope, restored hope, and rekindled hope – renewed hope in getting people vaccinated, restored hope in striving for greater understanding and advocacy, and rekindled hope to “lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.” (from poem by Amanda Gorman) I’m calling this message of hope [Version 2.022] because we desperately hope for a sustained peace in Ukraine, we continue to hope for greater understanding and advocacy in government and the church, and we hope that COVID is truly on the decline. Another “message of hope” that keeps coming up in various Zoom meetings is how some of our local churches are adapting to a return to in-person worship and a gradual introduction to in-person gatherings; while others are “hoping” for some kind of formula or process to be initiated by the district or possibly even the conference. If there’s anything I’ve learned during our ‘pandemic experience,’ it’s that context matters. What is your church’s context, your church’s DNA, your church’s comfort level, or your church’s acceptance of change? All of these things matter … but if you’re “hoping” for a one-size-fits-all approach, it probably won’t work.

Based on some successes and some with limited results, let me share the following lessons learned:
• Pray for the church, pastor(s), congregation, and your community
• Avoid the use of a major kick-off event – people will react to gradual better
• Continue the virtual setting for those concerned or immuno-compromised
• Make everyone comfortable … whether masked or not
• Remember that family units (with children under five) may wait longer to fully participate
• Continually remind people to return as they feel comfortable – they know their context
• Whether a volunteer or a church leader … pray the following prayer (from a recent devotional in the Lead Like Jesus series)

“Lord, how grateful I am to know Your name. I place my trust in You as I face this day, a day that You have given me to live for You. As I encounter people and face different situations, remind me that You remain the same, a God who is eternally present and eternally trustworthy. Steady me so that I can confidently represent You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

John Meeuwissen