Holy rhythms

Synod School explores the role of Sabbath during the pandemic

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

the Rev. Dr. Jason Brian Santos

LOUISVILLE — The COVID-19 era “is going to radically push what the church is in the future,” the Rev. Dr. Jason Brian Santos told the Synod of Lakes and Prairies’ Synod School Wednesday evening.

“We need to recognize that nothing is going to be the same,” said Santos, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Lake City, Colorado, and the former coordinator for Christian Formation with the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “Sabbath will play a more significant role.”

Santos was convocation speaker during the 2018 version of Synod School, which is normally held on the campus of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. This year’s Synod School, which is being attended by more than 300 people, is being held online due to the pandemic.

“Synod School was pure sabbath for me,” he said. His father had just died, and he said he didn’t want to go at first. But he went, and he was glad he did.

“Synod School was a pause,” he said. “Sabbath means to cease. It’s a moratorium moment, a period of time for us to exchange daily rhythms for holy rhythms. For me, Synod School was pure holy rhythms.”

COVID-19, he said, has forced worshipers and pastors into different rhythms. Not all of them are holy rhythms, but some of them are indeed set apart.

“We need to be intentional about the rhythms we participate in,” he said. “Most of us are on Facebook or Zoom for church, and there’s the sense that we will be worshiping online for a while.”

That’s challenging, he said, in part because church members can’t enjoy worship with one another in person. In addition, “it doesn’t replace intergenerational worship,” Santos said.

“Zoom works for adults, but for children education is experiential and embodied,” he said. “At some point, we are going to find ourselves in a place where we are asking, ‘What is the future of the church?’” — especially in the context of Christian education.

“The people in church who need assistance right now are those with children in the home,” he said. “There are parents who really don’t know how to keep their children in the faith.” Those families need support from older Christians in their congregations, he said.

“I think we need to play,” he said. “It seems difficult to play right now,” especially with twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial disparity roiling the country. Santos asked Synod School attendees to consider what life was like in the Garden of Eden.

“They were dwelling, playing, being,” he said. “When we play with one another, we are reminded of that sense of dwelling, that there is no goal beyond the game.”

“I am big on games. Board games can engage multiple generations,” he said. That level of dwelling together “is not a temporary release. It’s the holy act of being together. Worship can fall under that same category.”

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is scheduled to speak to Synod School Thursday night, the last evening this year for the annual gathering.

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