When I was growing up families made Sundays their day of worshipping together and the gathering afterward which culminated in that wonderful Sunday meal prepared for us by grandma, mom, and aunts. Our families helped found the local churches and their children were born and raised in the same churches where other family members had met, got married, christened their children, and sadly, where we held funeral services for those who passed on. Yes, life changes.
Recently, our family suffered a loss as great as the loss of any loved one or a long-time friend or colleague. This would be the loss of our usually grounded worship community of which we belonged for 16 years–the longest time as adults where we devoted ourselves to community and fellowship. And, yes, our life was changing again.
No one is without sin and our church repeatedly told us this. In fact, its mission was to reach unchurched people and to help them grow into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We faithfully supported this. We can attest to seeing people’s lives dramatically changed for the better through their participation there and their newly-found or rekindled belief in Jesus Christ.
Great numbers of people took part in and freely volunteered their services because we all believed “love people, love God.” Truly, we had been active participants in community life classes, the arts and worship teams, its missions program, and the children’s ministry by either coaching sports or volunteering in the week-long summer programs for our children. This biblical community was ingrained in our lives as much as that local church was where we grew up. Our worship community was our extended family. But, our life changed.
Satan knocked on our doors. First, COVID happened, closing those doors and pausing its programs. But we survived and even overcome those distancing hurdles through participating in wonderfully innovative and coordinated virtual services and programs. Still, the prolonged isolation of the past three years made many of us weary in varied ways. Accompanying the social distancing constraints and possible health issues, were also the political, economic, social, and emotional challenges that some coped with better than others. All of these were in addition to various stressors that come along with just doing life. Take our teens for example: on any given day they can be overly stressed about school demands and frustrations; negative thoughts or feelings about themselves; problems with their friends or peers; unsafe living environment or neighborhood; separation or divorce of parents; and chronic illness or severe problems in their families. The same can be said about adults and disruptions to their daily activities; or the presence of heightened relationship stressors that may have been tolerable before the pandemic but their stressors during the pandemic became too much for them, and their lives were changed for better or worse.
And, I guess, I am saying indirectly that our worship community was also adversely affected by these same or similar stressors. Yet, I didn’t expect our church to fall prey to them; I didn’t expect dear friends to become enemies; I didn’t expect to say goodbye to those I had become so very close to. But, like COVID, the virus became an epidemic and the security of our normalcy succumbed to them, and our lives changed.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. We recently found a new place of worship that is thriving. It is based on the same principles as our former church. We even have run into some others who, like us, felt the need to move on. What is life without change? And, let’s remember that it is God who controls our pathways. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (Jeremiah 29:11) And, once again, our life is changing.