Midweek Message: "Reflections on Where We Are as a Congregation"

Week of the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Dear Friends in Christ:

When it comes to the current state of our congregation, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that we have been worshiping indoors again for seven weeks now with a routine that honors both liturgical integrity and safety concerns about the ongoing claims of the pandemic. Our attendance has ranged from the mid-forties to the upper-sixties, a good critical mass of people, a genuine Christian assembly, reflecting a strong core of active membership.

The bad news is that these attendance figures are well below where we were as a congregation before the pandemic. It may be that some are claiming vacation time away, having put trips on hold earlier in the pandemic. It may be that some are not yet comfortable coming back in person, a concern heightened perhaps by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus. It is also true that we’ve had about half a dozen active families move out of the Arlington area in the past year. But I also fear that for whatever sets of reasons, there may be members who will simply not come back. The pandemic has created the opportunity for us to take stock of our lives and routines and has given permission to alter how we spend our time and express our commitments. It may be that for some, church is no longer on the list of priorities.

The good news is that our congregation currently enjoys a solid financial position. With assets in reserve, and expenses generally running below budget, and with the ongoing faithfulness of generous people, we are holding our own amidst the tumult of the pandemic.

The bad news is that giving by members in total dollars has been down quite noticeably during most of 2021. If these downward giving trends continue, this will have serious implications for current and future budget plans and will limit the extent of our capacities for mission and ministry.

The good news is that Resurrection Church is blessed with a solid core of volunteers who give a great deal of time and energy and skill to the practical needs and opportunities of the routines of our life together. I have been consistently impressed with the high quality of our lay leadership across the board.

The bad news is that many of these volunteers wear many hats in the congregation, and some are tired and being spread too thin. Where are the reserves of people who are willing to step up to be worship assistants, readers, altar guild members, ushers, members of our hospitality team, and new to our life together, videographers? If we are to pursue even the current level of activity without risking volunteer burn-out, we need to increase the numbers on our various teams of leaders.

I could go on with additional good news-bad news scenarios, but the point is that we do not yet know what the emerging realities will be in our life together as a congregation as a new normal begins to appear on the horizon. Still, the fact is that we need to be prepared for the likelihood that Resurrection Church will not exactly be what it was prior to the pandemic. In fact, even before the pandemic, Resurrection was a congregation in a state of major transition after a pastorate of almost a quarter century, and with other significant staff changes, including our musician who skillfully served us for half a century. That the pandemic happened amidst major transition already underway only complicates matters further.

If you have observations about the current state of our life together as a congregation, I would love to hear from you. Your insights, which may differ greatly from mine, will serve to deepen understandings of Resurrection Church’s current circumstances, its challenges and its opportunities.

Indeed, we shall see what kinds of realities emerge, especially after Labor Day when a new program year gets underway. The Reopening Planning Group recommends that we continue with our current practices of worship indoors, maintaining universal mask wearing and physical distancing, as we journey forth together into the future.

But here’s the final proclamation of good news for which there is no corresponding statement of bad news: God in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit remains present among us in assembly in word and sacrament when two or three gather in Jesus’ name. That bedrock reality cannot ultimately be taken from us, and that’s the solid foundation on which we will share in God’s work of building whatever congregational configurations and realities that are in store for us in God’s promised future.

Thus, onward with hopefulness in Christ,

Pastor Jonathan Linman