I was reorganizing my desk when I came across a stack of old newsletters from this congregation. Most of them were from before my time here, but the one at the top was from January 2020 - the first article I wrote to greet you on my arrival to Alaska. As I scanned through the various copies, I was struck by two emotions: grief and joy.
I grieve what we lost during the pandemic. I grieve that I could not physically sit with so many of you and hear your stories. I grieve the sorts of gatherings we may have had as we got to know each other - a new pastor and a new congregation. I grieve that many of you, with longer relationships, have not been able to see one another or sit across from each other or sing side by side for so long. I am certain that you have your own list of griefs from the last year.
I also found joy as I looked through old notes and articles. Joy at being reminded how Christ has always led this community, long before I ever got here and long before we ever experienced something like a pandemic. Christ will keep leading us. I feel joy that we are beginning to gather again and see familiar and new faces in the flesh and not only on a screen! I feel joy for hearing the “amens” that come on a Sunday morning and the hugs that we are able to give and receive. I feel joy in knowing that I will hear those stories that you carry.
Joy and grief intertwine and mingle as I pray about where God is leading us.
Here is what I ask from you: Imagine with me what living together as the body of Christ looks like as we continue to return to in-person gatherings. How do we connect in old and new ways? How do we share the stories of the past year and the stories that we carry from our lives? How do we help each other grieve and celebrate? How do we listen and respond to the stories of our neighbors? How do we love and serve our community? Where is God leading us next?
Imagine with me. Dream with me. Pray with me. Share with me. Because what I saw in those old newsletters is that we, as a community, are not strangers to grief and joy. We already know what is true in the midst of loss and celebration: Christ unites us, and the Holy Spirit empowers and sends us forth as the body of Christ. This was true in the last year and continues to be true as we follow Jesus forward.