What is “Normal?”

In these uncertain times, I find myself often repeating the Serenity Prayer:

Lord, grant me the serenity…
to accept the things, I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

     The pandemic has changed and rearranged our daily practices and rituals. I often hear parishioners and colleagues expressing their heartfelt desire that their lives would get back to “normal.” What I think that people are expressing is a desire for the known and regular. Having grown up in what I like to describe as a loving dysfunctional family with a mother who suffered chronic depression and a father who was an alcoholic, “normal” was not idyllic. I desired peace and stability more than I did “normal.” For those of you who had a more peaceful and functional family system, it makes sense that you would want to return back to the stability you have experienced in your past. I have also found that while I yearn for peace and stability, I am not always comfortable with it. I am constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop and return things back to instability. So, this pandemic, while stressful, is quite “normal” from my perspective and yet, I too desire peace, even if I won’t be able to enjoy it for very long.
     The Serenity Prayer has often been my go to prayer during stressful times. I learned it while attending Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings during college. It reminds me to take an accounting of my actions, to hand over to God those areas outside of my control, and take responsibility for the areas which I am called to change. As many of you know, this is not an easy task. Hence the need for     prayer.
     The pandemic has also brought to mind those long periods of suffering experienced by God’s people such as the four hundred years of enslavement in Egypt followed by the forty years of wandering in the desert, the Babylonian exile, or the two centuries of persecution of the Christian community by the Romans. In this light, a year of mask wearing and social distancing doesn’t seem too difficult in order to keep God’s people safe. Our inconvenience within the church is small compared to the suffering of those questioning how to put food on the table or keep a roof over their family’s head.
     It is in these times that the Church is called to be God’s hands and feet, comforting and praying, providing physical and spiritual relief to families and individuals in need. We can’t change the pandemic, but we can offer assistance. If you or someone you know is struggling during this time, please contact the church office. Because of your generosity, we have funds available to help individuals and families.
     I also call on your imagination to envision new ways that we can help our community. God has empowered this congregation with amazing gifts of compassion and experience. Just as with the Serenity Prayer, if we learn to hand over to God what we cannot control and take control of the areas in which we are called to share God’s love, then we will possess the wisdom and peace of God we require to overcome any difficulty.
     God is calling us to our new normal. I consider myself fortunate to be alongside such a wonderful church during these challenging times

May God bless and keep us, Pastor Jon