As the pandemic lockdown entered its second year in 2021, the Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, Mark Edington, edited and published a series of short essays on the impact of being closed for in person worship. The essays were entitled “We shall be changed: questions for a post-pandemic Church”. The questions asked included how we might deepen our relationship with God and each other even while navigating the distancing imposed by COVID and church closures. What will the impact of virtual worship have upon us as a community of faith? How will our financial stability and choices be changed? What about the inequality or resources within society that the lock down exposed and the Church’s response? And finally, are there elements of leadership and structure that might be affected as we move into a post-pandemic age?
It is probably still a worthwhile book to read, and certainly the questions remain unclear. People dare speak of our being now into a three-year period of COVID, with its variants; and we have obviously decided to embrace the implications of a herd immunity effort. St Helena, and Grace, is very careful in its masking habits, but a quick trip to the Sacramento airport, for example, presents a different level of unmasked practice.

Churches, like Grace, have been gathering in person for about a year, and this has been sufficient time to realize that things are not what they used to be. During the pandemic we may have been careful and creative about providing pastoral care and social networking a cross our congregations. Now that we invite people to worship in person, we sense a gap between who we were and who we are becoming as communities.

We want to rebuild the story of these past couple of years. We know that all kinds of social, entertainment and work patterns have changed. We shop differently, and we have learned to make alternative choices to the way we go about our lives. People may now work from their homes; and not everyone returned to the occupations they had prior to the lockdown. And how about spiritual practices? That is the story we want to uncover.

To do this, I hope that over the month of August, we can hold a series of conversations. For starters we will set apart Wednesday evening for a conversation at the Church in Newton Hall, from 6:00 to 7:30pm. It could also be a conversation topic at the pub hours which I am extending to Napa on Tuesdays, starting August 9th at the Palisades Saloon, along with the 4:30-6:00 times on Thursday evening. Or maybe we can have conversations that come to you.

I think Bishop Edington was right – in a post pandemic Church, “We shall be changed”. And how do we describe that change and adapt our common life as a Church to respond to it and its many aspects. One thing is clear, God has not changed, nor has God’s loving arms that seek to embrace us through Jesus. How to offer that more truly for today is our real quest.

Bishop Alan