We can all warmly welcome 2021, even as we agree we are happy to see 2020 go. For all of us, each in our own way, it was a difficult year. We had the rapid shut down of our lives, constantly unsure of what else would be taken away, daily navigating work and school, family and friends through a changing landscape of rules and regulations, and dire warnings and flat-out doubt.
Most churches were on complete lockdown for a period of time, disrupting the normal rhythms of the parish year. Here at Nativity, we had to reimagine almost everything we did as a parish. It was stressful and exhausting. I remember going home most evenings exhausted, even though it felt like I hadn’t actually done anything.
We are all waiting for some kind of return to normal. However, I think we would all also acknowledge that it is impossible for the last 9 months to not have changed us materially. COVID has brought changes to the way we live, the way we work, the way we shop, and the way we worship that are, in some instances, here to stay.
For instance, Pre-COVID we were a physical church on Ridgely Road that just happened to have an online service (mostly for the convenience of those traveling or home bound). COVID has blown up our on line service, with exponential growth. And while gathering in person to celebrate and receive the Eucharist is elemental to who we are and cannot ever change, moving forward, the virus notwithstanding, a lot more people are going to choose to join us a lot more often online. At least, that’s what I think.
We have to be careful about falling into magical or wishful thinking that there is a finish line to all this, or a single date that marks the end. We have to be careful about thinking that the crowds will all start coming back to church once the dispensation is lifted or that financial giving will rebound once we can past the basket again.
While it is tempting to focus our energy and attention on what has been taken from us, we still have the ability to set our own priorities and follow our own agenda. The people and organizations (and churches) who grasp this truth are the ones who will not only survive but thrive through this period.
While it is tempting to focus our energy and attention on what has been taken from us, the people and organizations (and churches) who grasp this truth are the ones who will not only survive but thrive through this period.Tweet
But with all the disruption and change to normal parish operations caused by this crisis, the question is: Where Do I Start?
The short answer is: be proactive with your priorities.
Our faith tells us that God is in control and wants to work with us in helping to set priorities. You are not all alone and on your own to figure out how to set priorities for your life.
Faith sees that you can set priorities with God and ideally in a community of believers who are working towards the same goal – taking responsibility for their life with God in partnership with God.
Our faith tells us that God is in control and wants to work with us in helping to set priorities. You are not all alone and on your own to figure out how to set priorities for your life.Tweet
If you’re a pastor…
Re-evaluate the ways you spend your time. If your last year has been anything like mine, you are probably busier now than you were in March. But an overwhelmed leader is an ineffective one and your ministry will probably suffer as things fall through the cracks. It is crucial to eliminate or delegate anything that is not directly related to your role as leader and pastor. Make that a priority.
If you’re a lay staff member…
Refuse to put parish life on hold. Instead, find creative ways to engage your parishioners to keep them active and connected. Lots of parishes are coming up with lots of ideas, learn from them. Make that a priority.
If you’re a lay volunteer who wants to see your parish succeed…
Stay engaged or get engaged. If you’re able, go back to in-person Mass attendance as an example to others. If you’re attending online, get involved in the online chat. And don’t just “watch” Mass, give the experience your full, active participation. And by all means, support and encourage your pastor. Make that a priority.
For examples on how to support your pastor, check out our Rebuilt resource: “7 Ways to Support Your Pastor.”
Who knows what the year ahead will hold? It’s important to stay positive, but really, if we’re being entirely honest with ourselves, nobody really knows. It’s not up to us. We have no choice when it comes to public health policy, state regulations, economic downturns, civil unrest.
What we do get to choose are our priorities. Our priorities can be like the magi’s star, guiding us through 2021.