by Tom Sine
Many Episcopal Pastors Have Begun to Search for a New Normal
This has been a tough year for many Episcopal pastors and their congregations. Many churches report that not only is Zoom attendance down but so is giving. However, some churches have created new ways to reach out to neighbors. For example, Saint Lukes Episcopal Church, here in Seattle, has reached out by inviting neighbors to use their community garden called SLUG… Saint Luke’s Urban Garden.
Pew Research just reported that a growing number of mainline churches, including the Episcopal Church, are searching to find a new normal. Like many evangelical churches, many leaders are attempting to find ways to move back into their sanctuaries… with social distancing.
Episcopal Church Members Searching for a New Normal
I suspect that many of us who are church members are even more eager to find a new normal. I am sure many of us have suffered a tragic loss of loved ones and friends. Many of us know people who have lost their jobs or are in danger of losing their homes. Thankfully, growing numbers of us are getting vaccinated and looking forward to moving from isolation to having people over again.
One of the things that Christine, my partner, and I have missed the most is offering hospitality. We have both had our vaccine shots. Part to the new normal we are beginning to plan for early summer here in Seattle is hosting small groups of friends in our backyard for lunch with social distancing. What is the new normal you are looking forward to with family and friends? I suggest you start your retreat by defining some new normals for your lives. You might restore some practices, like hospitality, to enrich your life.
One Post-Easter Pathway to a New Normal… With a Difference
It looks like things could really begin to recover in the US this summer. What are some things that you would like to be a part of your new normal? What are some of the most realistic places to begin? Post-Easter, what are also some new ways to express your faith in turbulent times like these?
Christine and I are actually going on a post-Easter Retreat on the pacific coast. We will start with discerning what the new normal will look like for us recovering some of the old joys that we miss. We will also explore ways to sharpen our spiritual practices as well as how we seek to reach out to others in these troubled times.
We encourage all readers to plan a post-Easter retreat to begin to more clearly define: what you would like as the new normal in your daily life? What are also some new ways to update your spiritual practices as an immediate follow-up of the celebration of Easter 2021? For example, what are some:
- New daily practices you would like to try out in your spiritual life as a part of a new normal?
- What are also possible new practices you might consider to reach out to so many who are still suffering from both the pandemic and the continuing recession?
Consider Beginning your Post-Easter Retreat by Inviting Jesus to Join you for Breakfast
I suggest that you consider beginning your retreat, as Christine and I are, by inviting the risen Jesus to join for breakfast on our chosen retreat day. My favorite image of the risen Jesus in the 21st chapter of John. Here we see some of his surprised disciples coming back from fishing on Lake Tiberius. “Jesus said to them ‘bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ He added ‘come and have breakfast.’ (John 21:10-12).
I find myself, on this day after Easter Sunday, very drawn to this risen Jesus offering breakfast on the beach to his surprised disciples, I find I am very drawn to this Jesus that is so immediate and welcoming.
John reminds us, “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter… ‘do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord’ he said, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said ‘feed my lambs.’” (John 21:15) Jesus repeated his clear message three more times to feed his sheep. (John 21: 15-17)
I also value his follow-up reminder to Peter that following this Jesus isn’t just about the Easter invitation to love the triune God more deeply. It is also an invitation to care more deeply for our neighbors as well.
Christine and I work at home as authors. I have found it easy to start the day, with our individual times of prayer and reflection. Then over breakfast, we take turns reading a Psalm and a gospel portion from the lectionary. We have found these practices have been very renewing during these very abnormal times. We also try to walk 2 miles each day in our neighborhood to enjoy the changing seasons, Christine calls these our “awe and wonder walks.”
If you don’t have any daily practices at this time, I recommend starting the day with some of the upbeat Psalms or begin reading through a gospel with prayer for your day.
In terms of reaching out to our neighbors in these troubled times, identify new needs where you life that stir your concern. I am increasingly concerned about the daunting challenges of our people who are just starting high school and college… particularly those from Black and Latino Communities.
Perhaps your Episcopal church might consider starting a neighborhood garden project like Saint Lukes has done here in Seattle that we mentioned earlier.
We would love to learn what are new normals you are creating as all respond to the Easter call to join the risen Jesus on the beach for breakfast as our first step to create our own new normal in our lives in 2021.
Tom Sine, co-author with Dwight J. Friesen of 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change published by Fortress Press