I can hardly believe it is nearly a year since I arrived in Orion to be pastor to this wonderful congregation of United Methodist Christians! We have been through the cautious reopening to persons in worship just as I began, to larger numbers in the fall, to closing down again November to January, to opening again in small numbers, and now up to 60% capacity, and people who are fully vaccinated no longer needing to wear masks. Phew! It has been challenging just to keep up with the guidelines, let alone working to find ways to be in ministry to one another, our community, and the world in the pandemic.

We are still going through what we all hope and pray are the final weeks of juggling regulations, guidelines, safety, and wanting to get back to “normal.” Before we hurry back to how things used to be, let us pause to look at what we have learned along this journey.

1. We have learned that being part of a community of faith and the world community calls us to do what is best for others. It means our comfort does not come first. It means that loving God and loving all God’s people means we sometimes need to put on masks or stay home so that we are safe, and so are the most vulnerable people around us.

2. We have learned that when we are grounded in the promises of God to be present with us, to guide us through the dark days and the “valley of the shadow of death,” to love us no matter what we do, and to forgive us at any time we ask, then there is always a light that is a beacon of hope no matter what is happening in our lives.

3. We have learned that community and fellowship are far more important than we ever realized before. So, we have adapted to online worship, Facetime calls with family, Zoom meetings, phone calls, and notes to stay in touch. As more and more persons are vaccinated and feel safe coming back to worship, I am meeting many of you for the first time in person. It is wonderful to keep connecting with all of you as this first year has made it hard to meet you.

4. We have learned that slowing down and spending less time running around is not all bad. Some of our closets have never been so clean! Joking aside, the slow-down has allowed us time to really think about how we normally spent our time and how we maybe want to be different when this is all over.

5. We have learned to spend more quality time with God and with each other. That intentional time spent in conversation and prayer needs to continue. Even when we can return to “normal” there are still all the other challenges of life waiting for us. We must work to hang on to what is really important—relationships.

6. We have learned we really want to celebrate as the body of Christ called United Methodist in Orion when all the restrictions are lifted. So, help us think of the ways we want to celebrate and gather when we are finally able to have table fellowship, singing, and large events again. What do you most want? Is it a picnic or potluck? Is it a hymn sing Sunday evening? Is it a drive-in movie in church parking lot? Is it a time to acknowledge the losses we experienced so we can set them aside and move on? Is it some form of hands-on mission? Think about it. Pray about it. Let me or members of committees know what you are thinking so we have things ready when we get the green light to move on out.

Pastor Ann