This has been hard. I know this to be true. Since mid-March, we have struggled with COVID, with a deepening racial divide and with a toxic election. And so much has been taken away. Not the lease of which has been our ability to gather together for worship every Sunday morning.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in a conversation with one of our “more experienced” members. When I mentioned that it looked like we might be stepping back from in-person worship, if the COVID numbers in Steele County didn’t improve, she looked at me with eyes that were teary and she said “Even Thanksgiving Eve?” Yes, unfortunately even Thanksgiving Eve.
Then she went on. “I’m really worried about younger families. They are staying home, which I understand. They want to keep their kids safe. But I’m worried that if they lose the habit of coming to church, they may not come back.” My heart was warmed by this person’s concern.
And I share that concern. Humans are creatures of habit. There is a well-worn path in the carpet in our home from my morning routine (1. Get up. 2. Take the dog for a walk. 3) Make coffee. 4) Bring coffee to Lori. 5) Only after having drank some coffee, say “Good morning” to Lori and ask how her night was. 6) Get cleaned up. 7) Make breakfast…and so on…)
I share the concern that once our faith habits are broken, they may be difficult to restore. And if there is one thing I am certain of, this pandemic has been a major disruptor in our faith habits. And faith habits are important, because faith habits become faith practices, and faith practices become faith.
I worry that when our habits fracture, our faith may suffer as a result.
I think it’s time that we develop some new habits. Life doesn’t look like it did a year ago. To be honest, because of all the changes we have experienced, I’m not sure if it will ever go completely back to “the way it was.” And yet our faith and our values are critical to our identity. We need to find new habits if our faith is going to continue to grow.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Prayer: Begin a habit of prayer. It can be short and simple. Set an alarm on your phone or your watch to remind you.
- Prayer: Pray responsively. When you watch a news story, and it involves some kind of need. (crime? accident? violence?) pray for those affected. Or when you open up social media, make a commitment to pray for the first individual to pop up on your news feed, no matter who they are or if you know them or not.
- Scripture: Read something every day. Even just a verse. The “You Version” Bible app (free!) can even send you a “verse of the day,” or can have it pop up on a widget on your phone.
- Scripture: BibleGateway.com also has helpful Bible study tools with a “verse of the day” and other devotionals.
- Devotion: d365 is a web site and a mobile app that brings you a short, daily devotional every day of the year.
- Encourage: Make a practice of calling a different friend every day, with no particular agenda. Just call to check in, even just for 5 minutes. You will find that not only are your calls encouraging, but that you will be encouraged in the process.
- Worship: Well, yeah…of course. Trinity has worship on our Facebook page every Sunday at 9:30am. And the services are available archived in YouTube, so you can be a part of them whenever works for you!
And as the pandemic continues, Trinity is going to be working at putting more of our content online. And there are many other ideas out there as well.
I believe that we can all come out of the pandemic with faith that is stronger than we had a year ago. I believe that God is working in our midst right now, creating opportunities and ways for us to grow.
In Hebrews 10, the author writes: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:23-25.
Our faith is lived out in the habits that we create. I think it’s time to create some new habits. While we don’t know what the future holds, we do know…and have trust in…the one who holds the future. I think in a year or two, it may be entirely possible that we actually have fewer people attending worship “in person” on a Sanctuary and yet more people engaged in their faith.
Our faith (and our church!) will continue to grow, if we build new habits! And this Advent will be the perfect season to begin.
God’s peace, friends!