by Rev. Dr. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister

That’s the answer.

I wish I knew.

The question is, “What’s this up-and-coming year going to be like?”

As your church staff and lay leaders have been hard at work over the past month preparing for the start of a new program year at BCCUCC, we’ve all been wondering this. No one (that I know of, at least) expected the pandemic to carry on “from a few weeks to a few months,” to “six months to a year,” to where we find ourselves now. The ongoing delta variant certainly threw things into a bit of chaos. Last spring we were planning on having all restrictions gradually removed through the summer and a return to more typical reality by this point. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case.

Fortunately, Rhode Island has not seen the tremendous upswing in cases and hospitalizations that many areas around the country have seen. Yesterday, there were nearly 211,000 new cases across the country with over 1900 deaths. Those numbers is being repeated every day and they are still climbing! Again, we are fortunate that Rhode Island is on the better side of those numbers, thanks to our proactive guidelines.

But this still leaves the question as to what church will be like as the pandemic continues to ebb and flow. We are opening up so many of our ministries and seeking to return to being the active community of faith we have always been. Yet as we do this, we are enacting new guidelines to keep us (and our communities) safe. This remains difficult for everyone.

I have recently heard of some folks who are choosing to stay home because they find wearing masks uncomfortable or problematic. Meanwhile, others are choosing to stay home because they are not yet comfortable being in large groups and confined spaces with those they don’t know well. This adds to the uncertainty about what church will be like over this coming year. Not only do we have a still-shifting health landscape to cope with, but we have so many different ideas on how we should handle it and what each of us are comfortable with.

I support each of you as you make the necessary decisions to for your own comfort and family safety. Saying that, I also ask you to respect the church’s decisions regarding mask wearing and other COVID precautions. These are difficult decisions, and your elected lay leaders (all volunteers) are putting in a lot of time, prayer, and energy into every decision they make.

I started off by stating, “I wish I knew”. I’m sure most of us do. A lot of us are tired of living with the unknowns and the shifting sands of pandemic life. It is tiring and draining on us all. Yet, it is also an adventure, a journey. It is life. We don’t ever know what it going to happen to us from one day to the next, from one moment to the next. We often (during non-pandemic times) slip into a regular pattern of assuming things will continue as we expect and that we can make plans and carry them out. But as we all know, that does not always work out the way we intend. God, or life, has a way jerking us back to the reality of the unknown. To remind us that we cannot take today, even with all it’s problems, for granted. We need to embrace it and celebrate it while we can.

This brings me back to this up-and-coming year. We have so many activities planned, so many hopes and expectations. We don’t know if you will be coming along and joining us or not. We don’t know if come Open Doors Sunday on September 12, we will have full church or if many people will continue to choose to worship online. All we can do is prepare, open our doors, and say, “Welcome!”

I encourage you to come back to church. Whether for you that means being here in person or attending online is up to you. I encourage you to participate in our children’s programs, adult education programs, fellowship opportunities, and community outreach. I have no idea how they will shift or change through the year, but I hope you will join me in participating in person or virtually as you are able.

One thing I do know, God isn’t through with us yet. God is working in and through each of us and our church. And God will be with us through this coming year. Let’s hold onto that and onto our love for each other and our church. Amen!