By William McConnell
How many times have we winced as an older, wiser sage reminds us to “look on the bright side,” to consider the “other side of the coin” or to “look for the silver lining”? Cringeworthy platitudes to be sure, but wisdom worth considering.
After more than a year dealing with COVID-19 pandemic realities, are there some bright sides, other sides of coins or silver linings we might be missing? There is no question that there have been tremendous losses and deep grief in this year, but what have we gained? What have we learned? Can lessons we have learned in the time of COVID-19 provide new energy and a different outlook for our future?
Think about it. Many congregations have successfully moved worship services into the online world, faithfully provided Christian Formation for all ages in new formats, launched online giving platforms, begun new ministries, provided participation opportunities for those who had not been able to worship in person at the congregation’s normal gathering times, and even increased attendance from those living within and outside the congregation’s geographic area. Yes, there have been losses, but also look at the gains.
I recently attended the online Stated Meeting of the Presbytery of East Tennessee. At the beginning of the meeting, a suggestion was made that participants contribute to the presbytery’s Carbon Footprint Fund what they would have spent traveling to the meeting, had it been in person. The Carbon Footprint Fund supports environmental projects and grants within the presbytery. Talk about looking on the other side of the COVID-19 coin.
What about those of us who have spent the year working from home? How much money have we saved not driving to work, eating lunch away from home, traveling to out-of-town meetings and conferences, or putting wear and tear on our bodies and our vehicles? And this is before we even consider time not spent in transit. The decreased carbon footprint benefits our entire world. Could some of those savings become gifts to our congregations or presbyteries supporting local, regional, national and international ministries? What about contributions to charitable organizations supporting laid-off restaurant workers in our area?
As we move into new normal (nothing like our old normal), how will we take lessons from COVID-19 to inform our new reality? How can the gifts we have been given during this difficult year become the seeds of new opportunities into the future? The future we are moving into is far different from the one we imagined pre-COVID-19, but it is a future God has prepared for us and for which God has prepared us.
William McConnell, CFRE, is a Mission Engagement Advisor for the Presbyterian Mission Agency serving the Central region of the United States.