A View from the Pew: Resurrecting Churches after the Pandemic

The strains of “He Lives!” still echo in my mind as the joy of my church’s outdoor Easter worship brought home the reality of the Resurrection and the work ahead for our church in a post-pandemic future.

The symbolism of Easter this year could not be missed. We, like Christ, were emerging from our tombs, and in our part of Georgia, the beauty of spring re-animated our worship. It was a glorious Easter, but questions linger for me as we progress through Eastertide and look toward Pentecost: What does a resurrected church look like? What do we need to do that we were doing before the pandemic? What should we continue that we started during the pandemic? What do we need to do that is new?

For me, the life of the church begins with worship. I am happy to worship in whatever form is safest for the protection of everyone in our family of faith, but I hope we will continue to consistently incorporate outdoor worship into our services going forward. It has been meaningful to hear the birds add their voices to the hymns. Their chorus reminds me that even if we do not lift our voices in praise, “even the rocks will cry out.”

Occasionally gathering for worship outdoors after the pandemic would serve as a reminder of how God sustained us in our grief and uncertainty during this dark time. It would play a similar role to the Feast of Tabernacles outlined in the Hebrew Scriptures, which reminded the people of Israel of God’s provision by including the construction of temporary shelters like they had during their wilderness wandering.

No matter how we gather, churches can focus on safety for all as we move forward. During the pandemic we focused on face covering, hand washing, socially distancing, and not gathering indoors. There is much that churches need to do to focus on the safety of people post-pandemic, particularly those who face the threat of violence, live with food insecurity, cannot find work to make ends meet, or need medical and dental care.

Beyond physical safety, churches can also care for people’s spiritual and emotional safety by not heaping abuse on them and supporting all people with love and belonging. The phrase “safe space” is thrown around so often these days that it has become a cliche, but in the most real sense of those words, our churches should be safe havens for those who are suffering or are in any type of danger.

We should also carry over with renewed intention the practice of checking on each other. When the pandemic separated us, we relied on phone calls, Zoom meetings, and other forms of technology to stay connected. Churches will thrive in the post-pandemic world if they will be conduits of personal connection rather than sources of division and condemnation. People are starved for acceptance and connection. There has never been a greater opportunity for churches to be the presence of Christ in this world to provide healing and give love.

If nothing else, churches can take with them from this pandemic the spiritual discipline of gratitude. To make it through each day for the past 13 months, people of faith learned to appreciate life’s small blessings. Churches can provide regular and consistent reminders that a daily practice of gratitude will take the focus off of our challenges and threats and put us in a posture of humility and service.

If we can take from this experience a deep understanding that we have been given much, we will willingly accept that much is required of us in return. Serving others is what Jesus’ life was all about, including the ultimate act of service by offering his life freely, and if churches can take that to heart, they will be renewed in their purpose.

I believe renewed churches will result in a post-pandemic world reconciled to God. That is my prayer as we move together in hope toward the future.

Lance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA. He earns a living in higher education communications and writes a blog at newsouthessays.com.

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