...A Few Thoughts on 9/11 and Church Life Post Pandemic (I HOPE!)
From Hal's desk... where Ron is sitting
As some of you know, Charnley and I lived in Manhattan during 9/11. The terror and the pain of that day caused immediate trauma for so many. We witnessed things which we will never forget. Twenty-one years have not dulled the memories of those first few hours. In the weeks that followed, the staff and members of the congregation I served spent hours in worship and conversation, seeking healing. Rumors abounded and anxiety and tension found a home in too many hearts.
Several weeks after the disaster, the Red Cross sponsored a workshop for care givers. They invited clergy, front-line medical personnel, and others in the helping professions to spend a day reflecting and learning together. One speaker shared a powerful insight into what we were seeing in the lives of those whom we sought to help and in our own lives. This person said: “No matter what ‘it’ is in a person’s life, whether it’s an addiction, a medical issue, a psychological issue, a relationship problem or just a stress point; whatever ‘it’ is, will be worse in the days to come…… Understanding that fact will help you help others and help yourself. Be patient, be forgiving, be understanding with everyone in your circle, including yourself.”
Let me suggest that these words of wisdom are relevant today. At one point, we experienced some serious tension and conflict in a small congregation where we were members. Objectively, the issues involved were minor, but several of our fellow members allowed those issues to snowball into conflict. All I could do was remember what that wise Red Cross teacher had said and remind myself that what was bothering these people had more to do with the anger and grief and pain of the pandemic than with the issue itself. It helped put it in perspective. It suggested ways to be loving and helpful.
Have you noticed any negative energy in your life or in our shared life as a congregation? After one month among you, I haven’t seen it, but……. Just in case, let me suggest that we need one another more than ever and we need safe space and faithful space and forgiving space and patient space. That’s why Plymouth exists as an outpost of sanity and occasional saintliness. That’s why we name Jesus as the one among us, helping us treat one another as God’s image bearers.
Now, If you find yourself having trouble doing that, cut yourself and the other person a little slack. Do your best to behave and believe in the power of good intentions. There is a biblical image of our belonging that suggests that we don’t belong to a church, but that we belong to one another and that together we belong to Jesus. That sort of thinking could save your life and one way or another make this a stronger congregation!
Thank you for the joy of being among you again.
P.S. By the way, I am available if you need to talk. Call the church (970-482-9212) and you can be forwarded to me.
Rev. Ron is our sabbatical interim minister through Nov. 16, 2022. Read about him on our staff page.
The Calling & Caring web page Carla references is here.
In December 2019, Carla started her two-year designated term pastorate at Plymouth. She spent the last 5 years consulting with churches on strategic planning, conflict transformation and visioning. Before going to seminary she volunteered at her church through Stephen Ministry, visiting ministries and leading worship services at a memory care unit and a healthcare facility. Learn more about Carla here.
For me, 2020 started out almost impossibly perfectly: I rang in the new year in Rome, watching fireworks over the Coliseum and eating the twelve grapes that Italian tradition states are supposed to bring good luck for the year ahead. Maybe I accidentally forgot a grape, or perhaps I misunderstood the old man explaining the tradition to me, but “lucky” isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind when I think of the way this year has progressed since those first few perfect moments.
I was supposed to spend the entirety of the 2019-2020 school year in Spain on a Fulbright scholarship, teaching middle and high school students who were absolutely overflowing with energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and more than a little bit of sass. I treasured every single day that I got to walk into school and engage in the perfect combination of insightful conversation and chaotic shenanigans that can only happen when you’re working with youth. When I was forced to evacuate Spain in March as COVID-19 hit the country, it felt like I was leaving a huge piece of myself behind. In an instant, the deep conversations, the one-on-one moments when students would let their guard down and truly open up, and the riotous laughter when low-stakes games somehow became life-or-death for the students were replaced with long stretches of emptiness and the lingering question, “Now what?”
However, if there’s one thing that I’ve found to be true in my 23 years on this earth, it’s that the universe seems to have a funny habit of working itself out in the most unexpected ways. Taking on the role of Plymouth’s Interim Director of Christian Formation for Youth has in many ways been the answer to an unspoken prayer: a prayer for connection, for growth, for helping others to navigate these unprecedented times and for allowing them to help me as well. As Plymouth’s youth face a year unlike any other, I feel so blessed to be in a position to help provide a sense of community and grounding in the midst of so much uncertainty. During my own middle and high school years, youth group at Plymouth was always a welcome source of laughter, conversation, and connection, and I hope that it can continue to be an oasis for our youth in this exceptionally strange time.
This year may not have been exactly what I was expecting, but it has turned out to be more of a blessing that I ever could have imagined. Maybe I did eat those grapes correctly after all.
Alli Stubbs is our interim Director of Christian Formation for Youth. Read more