As a pastor or a member of a pastoral team, it is up to you to be in touch with the signs of the times. Jesus’ disciples live and move and have their being both in Jesus and in the today’s world. To bring Good News in today’s times means knowing how the times are affecting those God entrusted to your care. In other words, the signs of the times is another way to express the water we are all swimming in as a result of this pandemic. What’s happening to us all? What’s happening to the followers of Jesus that may be different from what is happening to others? Who is most adversely affected by this? How is your individual parish affected by the pandemic?
Social scientists and psychologists are saying that people around the globe are being affected in some similar ways by Covid19.
- We are living in a heightened state of fight, flight or fright/freeze.
- We are all experiencing grief.
- We are all at a bit of a loss as to where to look for help.
- We are all learning how to navigate this at the same time.
How does the Body of Christ respond to the global population experiencing this? And who are those disproportionately affected by all of this? Who’s so debilitated by it all that we cannot hear their voices? Who is speaking for them? And, discovering the signs of the times does not stop there.
Add to this list the many ways the pandemic has and is changing the Church and your local parish.
- The work of the church has largely been pushed into homes and to the hands of individuals. It’s a real domestic church, with all the strengths and weaknesses.
- The sacramental life of the church is missing the gathered community, and some of its ritual postures, gestures and actions.
- Many, but perhaps especially the loosely affiliated, are struggling to maintain connections to Christ and the Church.
- Emotions are running high. The intellectual tradition of the Church, upon which so much of parish life has been centered is not meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of the people described above.
Making adjustments for today is creating some anxiety as leaders try to imagine tomorrow. It’s not easy to see years of tradition, hours of planning, money and volunteers all changed as we learn to live with Covid19.
And in all of this, two things remain. 1) God is with us. Jesus promised that and we must trust it. 2) We are changed. Whether we wanted to be changed or not by this, we are and will continue to be. Ecclesial leaders are charged with keeping an eye on those signs of the times and how they are affecting (changing) people, and are charged with firmly grounding people in the truth of Emmanuel. God is with us, and so ecclesial leaders must remind us of that, show us the signs, demonstrate trust in the God of new creation, and at the same time, lead us in faith-filled prayers of lament, of grief and sorrow, of fear and frustration…for all those types of prayer are expressions of praise to the God who is with us, right here, suffering and rejoicing. They are also honest expressions of how we are being changed.
Even as I write this the times are changing a bit. People are both excited to have some restrictions lifted and frightened about the implications of that for themselves, the more fragile in their lives and of course, for the weakest among us. Governors are trying to figure out how to be prudent, to place human beings first and to balance the need for the economic engine to re-start alongside the need to maintain practices that will reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Division about how to proceed continues, even within the Church.
Jesus’ measuring stick was always love: what is the most loving response in this situation, no matter what that response asks of me or of us as a community? What is in the best interest of others? How do we enable others to experience God-with-us? What enables, advances or protects the common good? And how do the least among us fare in each decision? Love, Jesus style, is what’s at the heart of any response to the signs of the times.
Looking to read a bit more about these signs of the times? Go directly to the White Paper on our home page. Want to talk this through with someone from the outside of your parish or diocese? Contact us. Happy to partner with you to puzzle this through!