by Tom Sine
What Are your Aspirations for the New Normal?
I want to invite all readers to identify the new normal you are looking forward to in your own lives and for your loved ones. For example, Christine and I are looking forward to offering hospitality to friends in our backyard again this Summer. We are also looking for ways to enable young people whose parents are unemployed to find ways to fund schooling for college.
While many of us are eager to discover a new normal, we all need to remember that a higher percentage of our neighbors than we have seen in decades are struggling to simply survive the corona “recession”. A higher percentage of our neighbors are struggling everyday to keep their families fed, housed and their children’s educational opportunities secure.
Now even though our battle with the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, a number of countries, including the United States, are successfully vaccinating a major portion of their populations.
How Impacting are 150 Million Vaccinations?
President Joe Biden announced that we are ahead of the goal he set for vaccinations in the US. He stated in a recent White House briefing celebrating the 150th million vaccination in the US ahead of schedule: “My hope is, before the summer is over, I’m talking to you all about how we have even access to more vaccines than we need to take care of every American, and we’re helping other poor countries…” Here, again, we need to realize that even middle class families, in these countries, suddenly find themselves, and their loved ones, plummeting into sudden poverty.
What Was the Invitation of the Risen Jesus to His Disciples?
In my last post, I described how some churches are looking forward to returning to their sanctuaries as a part of returning to a new normal. However, I also reported that a number of churches have already been busy since the pandemic began in the US reaching out to empower the most vulnerable in their communities and communities all over the planet.
I called people’s attention, the Monday after Easter, to my favorite post-Easter scripture. I described the delightful imagery of the risen Jesus offering breakfast on the beach to some of his disciples. Jesus not only offered his disciples gracious hospitality but he also reminded Peter and his other disciples of the otherness of being a part of the hospitality of Jesus… “feed my sheep”.
How Can We Enable Our Neighbors to Discover a New Normal?
Fortune’s “One Year Later Project” identifies a number of ways we can all reach out to enable our neighbors to begin the journey to a “new normal” too. For example, Fortune suggested we might start by simply expressing gratitude to all those putting their lives at risk like health care workers, line cooks, and warehouse workers.
Fortune also highlighted the enormous housing crises facing many of our neighbors, 29% of Black renters, 22% of Latino renters and 13% of white renters are not current in paying their rents. A number of churches are opening their facilities as an interim housing response so families don’t have to join the swelling homeless populations.
Many parents that are working simply cannot afford the cost of child care these days and a growing number of churches are offering free or inexpensive child care for parents who are a long way from finding a new normal.
Finally, 20% of low-income families cannot afford to purchase laptops for their children’s education. I suspect a number of middle class families have more computers in their homes than they are using.
Episcopalians Expressing the Otherness of the Way of Jesus
In response to our neighbors facing urgent challenges, I am grateful that “Episcopal churches nationwide continue to operate homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries and other outreach ministries…”.
Rebecca Linder Blachly, the director of Government Relations for the Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. stated, “We have a responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable through our collective actions, primarily through social distancing. But that means we must also find new ways to care for one another – financially supporting organizations that are continuing to provide services, calling our neighbors to see how they are faring and what they need, and recognizing the disruption and hardship this pandemic is causing.”
Joining Those Creating a New Normal in the Way of Jesus
I encourage all followers of Jesus, as we begin to fashion a “new normal” for all our lives, to set aside both significant time and resources to enable our most vulnerable neighbors to begin the journey to a new normal as well. Wouldn’t it be great to give greater expression of the good news of Easter not only in our churches but also in the lives of our neighbors and our communities?
Dr. 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.