by Dan Morley, North District Superintendent
Customs, traditions, rituals, and cultural norms — Are these the things we are speaking of when we cry that it is time for things to get “back to normal?” Normalcy does serve a purpose. If I do not know what to expect or anticipate, then anxiety and stress rises and it becomes difficult to function in healthy ways. Our traditions and customs help us all to know who we are in our personal selves and in relationship with each other.
However, normalcy also leads to complacency and unconscious assumptions. We get into such habits that we lose the purpose and meaning of a ritual or tradition. Normalcy also leads to assumptions about others which leads to labels and definitions which limit and even demean, diminish, or discount other human beings.
The pandemic brought a halt to normal day-to-day schedules and routines. How we shop, work, and play has dramatically changed. Our traditions of how we worship and minister has needed to shift. But the pandemic is only a part of a larger experience. We have been in the midst of culture-shift for many years. In these months, there has been a renewed look into human civil rights. This has challenged cultural norms and practices to the degree that protests and marches have emerged and violence toward people and property have resulted. Challenging or even questioning cultural norms is significant because it causes disruption to the normal, comfortable, and familiar. And that brings about stress, anxiety and fear.
I am unsure about quoting someone I know nothing about and even less sure when I Google the name and all I find about Irene Peter is — “121 years old and is still living!” The few quotes attributable to Irene are fascinating and insightful. But this one rings true for this time — “Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed.”
Can we allow this time, when we have shifted in so many practices and customs, to change us? Will we be able to have the determination to establish new ways of being the church? Do we have the courage to not go back to being comfortable pew-sitters and demanding that neighbors come to our address and become like us in order to be received and honored? Can we recraft ritual and tradition to hold the eternal truth but with new expressions which show a relevance to our neighbors?
What if our churches decide to relaunch when we return to our buildings? What if our churches started planning now for such a relaunch? Why not take a look at the resources from the New & Vital Faith Communities, https://dscumc.org/blog/2021/03/05/dont-return-to-normal-re-launch-instead-2/.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Let us become new!
In Service for Christ,