A firm foundation

We're big fans of Home Town on HGTV, a home renovation show with Erin and Ben Napier. In one of the episodes that aired recently, a couple moving into town bought a house that looked a bit forlorn, with overgrown shrubs and neglected shutters. They loved its great outdoor space, which included a big deck out back. Ben noticed some boards that looked bad and started on repairs only to discover the decking was too far gone to save. The budget for the project didn't include a new deck. Underneath, however, Ben and his carpenter could see a concrete slab that might just be suitable for a patio instead. Hopeful, but not certain, they pulled apart the whole deck.

The process of moving toward reopening church buildings has its own hopes and uncertainties. Pastors and other leaders are making their best educated guesses about what's safe, what's feasible and what will be satisfying for the people in our faith communities, accounting for expressed needs without giving into emotional pressure. The old ways of doing things - singing together, greeting one another with hugs and handshakes, sharing coffee and donuts after the service - may feel like the deck we assume a new homeowner will want to keep. Decks are desirable, aren't they? We all want those things, don't we?

But we don't want to pick up splinters or to fall through a weak board and break an ankle.

On Home Town, after deconstructing the deck, they found a level slab in good condition and went ahead with a patio. Money that might have been spent repairing the deck instead allowed for an outdoor fireplace to be built.

I'm thinking of all of you who are making plans right now. In time we'll find out what works and doesn't work for our faith communities. We know there are going to be people working out their grief from the past year by complaining that the reopening doesn't suit their imaginings, and others may be managing their anxiety by staying away even though church is where they want to be. Pastors will be managing our own disappointment at how close we are to "normal" and yet how far away still.

I keep coming back to the image of a firm foundation, that level slab that no one will fall through, right on the ground so no one will fall off, accessible and secure. You'll find yours in the common language of your context, the words you most often use to describe your faith and your community's faith, words that are familiar and grounding.

On that foundation, we will build new ways of being together.

My prayers are with you.


Give me patience

A prayer for pastors

Holy One,

I listen to the voicemails,
read the texts,
and scan the emails.

Some hold genuine questions and concerns,
but others,
you know.

The concern can be trolling;
the questions can be challenges.

Give me patience, O God:
the discipline
to take a breath,
or to backspace,
or to walk around the block.

Give me mercy, O God,
and understanding,
or at least curiosity,
a commitment to finding out
what lies beneath
the questions, the comments,
the criticisms.

Give me love, O God,
for your people,
all of them.

Give me love, O God,
your love for me
and for them.

We all need it,
and we give you thanks for it.

In Christ's name.

Instaprayers (2)

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