Flexibility and Strength
Last Sunday I talked about resilience in the sermon. Most definitions of resilience include both strength and flexibility as keys to perseverance. Earlier in the pandemic I was in a meeting of pastors. Our facilitator asked us to describe in a word our church’s response to the crisis. The word ‘flexible’ came up a number of times. Our facilitator laughed saying that the word flexible was one which she has rarely heard used to describe the typical church. Most pastors can identify with the saying that the Seven Last Words of the Church are “We’ve never done it that way before.” Churches are notorious for being resistant to change. And so are pastors. I remember a colleague years ago explaining that the world changes so fast that people need a place that never changes- the church!
And yet we at MUMC have changed so much in the last year. We have worshipped by live stream and outdoors. We have had classes meet on Zoom and under trees. Our youth meet in the mid afternoon on Sundays in order to have daylight and warmer temperatures outside. Stephen Ministers and class leaders use the telephone as their key means of being present with people. My visitation list is no longer a log which I keep in my car but a list I keep at home by the phone. Our Food Pantry has become a drive through and our Communion a drive in. We have been flexible.
However, it is critical to note that this flexibility is rooted in strength. First of all, it is rooted in the strength of God’s love for us and in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is also rooted in the strength of our unchanging values: loving God through worship and study, loving each other in acceptance and mutual care, and loving our community and neighbors through service. These values do not change and they give us the ability to change our methods. Unchanging values in a changing world give rise to a holy flexibility in the church. Certain of God’s love and presence and of our own deepest values, we may face this uncertain world with joy, confidence and creativity.