We Will Adapt
What a year. I know that, like me, you all faced challenges that you never expected in 2020. Solitude, fear, forced lockdown, frustration, economic hardship, depression, anxiety, anger. The specifics of the list is different for each of us, but I know this much- we have shared a year of uncertainty and disconnection. We’ve been physically distanced from one another, and that has hurt. I miss seeing you all.
You who are reading this are probably aware of at least some of the work that St. John’s staff has undertaken in an effort to help keep us all connected. I’d like to highlight a few projects that were near to my heart.
We recognized, pre-pandemic, that we needed to offer online worship services of some sort. Given the fact that our congregation is far-flung and mobile, we had already been planning on installing a new audio-video system in the sanctuary to allow us to live stream and to record services. We were scheduled to have a system in place sometime in the summer, so in March when we had to stop gathering in church we scrambled to figure out a way to get worship services delivered to you virtually. We started with an iPhone and a makeshift tripod set up on the altar to pre-record services. Jimmy, Mary, and I led modified services (sans Communion) and instead of traditional sermons we had informal discussions reflecting on the lessons of the day. I know from your comments that some of you loved it, some not so much, but the overwhelming consensus was that it was a meaningful way for the people of St. John’s to stay connected. In the summer we purchased and set up a tent and held outdoor services, continuing to offer online worship for those who either weren’t comfortable gathering in person, or who were elsewhere. We didn’t move past the iPhone recording technology (though we got more skilled in using it) until September, when our new AV equipment finally arrived. The system is fully up and running, staffed by an awesome group of volunteers, and it delivers what we hope is a first-rate worship experience to you at home. Of course, we all look forward to the day when we can be together in church again, sharing the Eucharist, but we are making the best of the situation we have for now. And we will adapt to whatever comes our way. We always have, and we always will.
The tent was a wonderful place to worship, and it was also used for other purposes throughout the summer. Local organizations held meetings and events out there, and we put it to good use as a place for discussion groups and staff meetings. Suzanne Love Harris held a poetry group there, and Travis Helms, a visiting priest and poet, led us in a LOGOS celebration of poetry and liturgy. And it was a great place for me to eat my lunch.
Adult formation continued through the pandemic. Together we read Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here and engaged in conversation around the topics of racism and reconciliation. We will continue this work into the future, as we recognize that we must find new and better ways to love our neighbors. Lynne Matthews, who is in the process of becoming ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church, led three sessions of study that focused on Paul’s letters. Lynne said,
"It was an amazing group of people and the discussions were always very lively, thought-provoking and in many cases very profound. And above all it was wonderful fellowship that I know all of us are missing."
Jimmy probably won’t let me get away without mentioning that I built the new AV control booth at the back of the church. It was a fun, challenging project to make it functional and to match the beautiful woodwork in the sanctuary. I really loved to have something practical to do during the summer, when everything in the world and in my life seemed upside down. I think it turned out well. One cool feature is that the ends of the booth are coped onto the log walls. Tim Schwartz, our amazing Sexton, coped those boards in.
I want to give Tim a big shout out here. He keeps the physical plant of St. John’s campus functioning and in ship shape. His carpentry skills are unmatched, and here are some of the other tasks I’ve watched him do, always with a smile, in the past year: painting, watering flowers, setting up ice cream bikes, fixing locks and doorknobs, making ice lanterns, hanging and taking down and rehanging banners and garlands, moving poinsettias and Easter lilies, shoveling snow, fixing plumbing and electrical, fixing appliances… and the list goes on. Thank you, Tim!
Onward, brothers and sisters. We can’t know exactly where this path is taking us, but we travel together, following Jesus, into a future of hope and love.