2021 was a hard year. We witnessed all communities groaning under the strain of the pandemic, wondering how this time will change us, asking how the effects of 2021 will shape our lives in the coming years. We begin 2022 more aware than ever before that our lives are in the hands of God. How will we respond in faith to become light in the darkness? What will it mean for us in 2022 to answer the call of the Holy Spirit though we are weary and suffering losses we are yet unable to name?
Last year, our first full year together, began with four months of online worship followed by a survey to develop a plan for our phased return to in-person worship. Following Dane County Health Department Guidelines, with the help of our Medical Advisory Team, we organized an online sign up process to meet capacity limits, set up the church to ensure social distancing, and wore masks, believing all of this was transition to emerging fully from the pandemic and returning to normalcy.
Our efforts to install an AV system were delayed, first by the challenge of making such a consequential financial decision during a pandemic, and then, when funds were generously given, by the Evergreen container ship running aground in the Suez Canal, of all things.
As summer ended, with hope of emerging from the pandemic stronger and more united, I recommended we continue to worship together in the fall, combining worship times and styles. As it turned out, we have not emerged from the pandemic but find ourselves adjusting to evolving conditions.
We have responded in faith as best we could, each step along the way bringing new challenges straining our resources–time, patience, good-will. In all of this, we are united in a sense of loss most often expressed as a desire to return to normalcy.
We enter 2022 like Mary going to the tomb on Easter morning, heart broken, eyes blinded by tears:
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. John 20:11-12
Faith calls us to mourn our losses, grieving the many kinds of death we have suffered, trusting God will wipe away our tears and transform us, like Mary, into witnesses of resurrection.
I am thankful to God for the faithfulness of many and for the new life emerging in our congregation. I am especially grateful to Terry Anderson, who completes four tumultuous years serving as church Moderator–pastoral resignation, interim process, search and call process, pandemic, transition to a new pastor. In normal times serving as Moderator is demanding; the past four years have been more demanding than any four years in our church history.
As the Apostle Paul encourages the early church to grieve with hope, so I pray you will be encouraged,
“so that [we] may not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13c).
With Stubborn Faith and Steadfast Hope,
Pr. Craig Jan-McMahon