I am concluding my second month of ministry with you all. As I frequently find, the time has flown by…and it seems like I’ve been here for SIX months! That’s not a bad thing, however. I’ve never begun a ministry in the middle of a pandemic! Or are we still close to the beginning of it?!? We certainly had hoped to be much further along the way toward normalcy than we are. We also realize the new “normal” will not be normal at all, which adds to our frustration and anxiety. Yet, here we are, endeavoring to make the best of these times and to be better for—or, in spite of—them. A simple phrase of encouragement? My favorite fallback: We’ll get there!
One lesson I have learned doesn’t surprise me much: Third Church continues to travel through a profound season of mourning, some of you more, and some less, caused by the monumental changes that have impacted your existence. Three beloved, longer-term pastors have moved on in their ministry lives in relatively short order. Other staff and volunteer anchors likewise have transitioned away from service here. Our social neighborhood looks somewhat different these days than it did a few years ago. And then there is COVID-19. I haven’t directly heard Alice (of Wonderland fame) paraphrased, but nearly so: What will become of us? That is the primary question we ask during interim times. Before we can tackle that query, we have to spend time measuring where we’ve been and where we are right now—which, of course, is a place we want to escape in a big hurry!!
As we gather around the Lord’s Table in our distanced manner this week, Paul provides us with more profound words of encouragement for these days: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nor pandemic. Nor lost leaders. Nor social strife. Nor worries about finances. Nor…ANYTHING!! Just like last week’s word from Paul, it’s a hope and a promise and not necessarily a present reality. Yet, we cling to it like a refugee baby to a parent’s back.
I will strive to convince you (and myself) this Sunday that, indeed, NOTHING will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. A very important truth in this time of separation from each other and our beloved Holy Space. I am still available to visit with you virtually and in person, in socially-distant ways, of course. You never have to feel badly about mourning your losses, whatever they happen to be, in my presence. I fully accept that you may like Pastor So-and-So better than you like me. And you really want the next chapter of Third Church’s story to begin. I am here to facilitate that transition, as wisely and carefully as we are able. In light of that effort, my plan this Sunday may seem like a step backward. It really is not. Sometimes we need to name the loss, so we can receive God’s words of comfort more effectively, and move ahead with renewed purpose…even in times like our present days.
The Rev. Conley A. Zomermaand, PhD
(618) 606-1053—after office hours; emergencies