Noticings – March 1, 2023


March 1, 2023

How’s your church-talk these days? Is it upbeat and hopeful? Is it downbeat and fatalist? Is the cold, snowy weather after a tease of mildness messing with your outlook on things? Covid worries are slowly waning but the aftermath is just now emerging, and what it’s revealing is that the ground has shifted dramatically since the ‘before-times’, and that is taking its toll on people’s spirits too. That there may not be a return to ‘normal’ anytime soon (if ever) can be very depressing. More funerals than we’re used to and news of nearby churches closing isn’t helping. It’s no wonder our collective church-talk is a bit ‘angsty’.

Lent is a good season for slowing down, breathing deeply, and reflecting on things. It’s wonderful to be prayerfully introspective, but not if it turns to brooding or worry. Maybe that famous prayer by Niebuhr would serve us well. You know, the one about having serenity to accept the things you can’t change, having courage to change the things you can, and having the wisdom to know the difference! Great prayer!

We can’t change how the world has shifted. We can’t change people’s new patterns of interaction with the world. We can’t change the grumpy, combative tone of things like social media. We can’t change other church’s struggles with vitality and viability. But we *can* change how we look at the world, how we interact with the world (and one another), and how we navigate our own spiritual journey. I’ve noticed that the church-talk of Faith United these days, on the whole, is quite ‘angsty’. We can’t change some of the reasons for that, but we definitely can change our perception of things.

For example, while there’s ‘only’ 60-75 in-person worshippers each week we can remember, and celebrate, that there are another 100-120 on average each week participating online. Add those up and we’re actually reaching more people now each week than we were when there were 140 people in the building. Our finances are doing ok, and we’ve exceeded our goals for Mission & Service and Church Work in Durham – not to mention great campaigns for wells and coldest night, etc. Each month our building is being used more and more by outside groups, and we had a lovely feast of pancakes last week with lots of guests. We get to choose how we perceive our congregation.

As Lent proceeds, as the days get longer, as our collective mood likely slowly becomes sunnier with spring beckoning, I hope your church-talk will feel a bit springier too. As this new season emerges it will be different than the way it used to be. It helps to remember that dying and rising into new life is our core story.

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Rev. Larry