Although others have said similar things, Churchill is believed to be the originator of this thought. When I really think about this, it is actually a very profound statement. In a time of crisis, most of us are just scrambling to “get back to normal.” I find the desire for the “normal” to be a deep-seated desire in most of us. But a crisis often marks the end of adequacy for what has been “normal.” In fact, a crisis often results precisely because our “normal” simply no longer works. Thus, scrambling to restore it is an exercise in futility and can lead to disaster. In Laurence Gonzales’ book Deep Survival, he notes that knowing when to change our “normal” can make the difference between life and death. While he affirms the usual mantra of making a plan and using that plan, he also stresses that the crucial element can be knowing when to change that plan. In the face of a world war, Churchill demonstrated that kind of strategic leadership. And the world owes him a debt of gratitude for it.
The past 20 months have been a time of crisis for most of us. We wrestled with racial tension and a bruising election. We experienced personal losses and challenges. We weathered the most frigid weather that many of us can remember. And over all of it was the reality of COVID-19. In all previous times of challenge, the church has gathered together for worship and prayer. Suddenly, we were trying to create substitutes for those familiar, ancient, and powerful connections. Bethany’s staff rose to the occasion in a multitude of creative ways. While our campus was closed, our staff was working harder than ever.
In the midst of all that, our lay leadership asked us how we could use this crisis to make changes for the better. We went back to the work we had begun a few years ago and revisited much of it in light of the pandemic. We conducted our Reconnect campaign to help people reconnect with their Bethany family. While our attendance numbers are not where we want them to be, we are doing considerably better than many other area congregations. Further, your faithfulness in financially supporting Bethany is allowing us to move forward in many areas. (But we still need for more of you to indicate your financial commitment for 2022. This is crucial to many of our future plans.)
Like other churches and businesses, we have also wrestled with the “Great Resignation” of the pandemic. It seems that many people have rethought their work and their work habits in the light of the pandemic. This past month saw the largest number of employees resigning across our nation – ever! While we are also wrestling with reappointments and resignations, God continues to bless us with new staff who are amazing. We firmly believe that God will continue to bless us richly through our staff.
On a personal note, Cindi and I finished unpacking and settling into our new home. We did so just in time to celebrate our first granddaughter’s baptism. And then, some nine weeks early, we welcomed the birth of our second granddaughter! God was with them and both mother and daughter are doing great. While all our plans were suddenly rearranged, we feel very blessed.
Recently, I read an article from scholars with the “Human Flourishing Program” at Harvard University. This group did some research on the effects of worship attendance on people’s health and well-being. The article is full of statistics – way more than I can include here. But overall, the authors make a strong case for the connection between attending worship and having a healthy and hopeful life. In fact, they estimate that about 40% of the increase in depression and suicide during the pandemic is directly related to not attending worship. That means that reaching out to your friends and inviting them to come worship with you is more critical than ever.
COVID-19 has forever changed our world and understanding. There is much sorrow that we will all carry forward with us. But there has also been blessing in the midst of that sorrow. Your pastors and staff are aware of both of these. But we have chosen to focus on the blessing as we move into the future. As we approach Thanksgiving, we urge all our Bethany family to look for the blessings God has poured out upon us. Join me and all our staff in looking for God’s redemption of this crisis of COVID-19.