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Today in the Mission Yearbook

An invitation to pause and rethink


Author explores ‘bewildering’ pandemic landscape

January 19, 2021

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

The pandemic has ushered in a time of bewilderment but also a golden opportunity, according to the Rev. Dr. Paul H. Lang, author of “The Pilgrim’s Compass: Finding and Following the God We Seek.”

“It seems to me that this moment of pandemic is an invitation for us to pause and rethink, to recalibrate, to reorient to wonder about that basic fundamental question of what is it we think we’re doing, and is what we’re doing useful to us and to the world at the moment?” Lang said.

He was the featured speaker at a recent webinar co-sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators and Westminster John Knox Press. Carl Horton, Peacemaking’s Coordinator for Mission, served as the host.

Lang’s presentation, “A Look at COVID-19 Through the Lens of Christian Pilgrimage,” provided insight into this sometimes-confusing period when staying close to home to avoid the coronavirus is juxtaposed with a desire to continue bearing fruit for God’s kin-dom.

“The world that was so ordered and made sense to us even just a few months ago is not as orderly now, and we’re trying to figure out faith in the context of that,” said Lang, who’s pastor and head of staff at First Presbyterian Church in Fargo, North Dakota.

Many people find their days altered significantly because of the pandemic, often working from home and worshiping by videoconference instead of rushing to in-person meetings.

“Our stress level about work may be very high, but the pace of day-to-day interactions with others has slowed significantly, and that does give us a chance to try to make sense of what is, it seems to me, a pretty bewildering landscape,” said Lang, who’s also executive director of The Institute of Church Renewal.

The sources of bewilderment are many. Pastors, educators and others who are used to being surrounded by people on a regular basis are having to rethink how they operate in an era of social distancing. At the same time, many Americans have questions about job security, how schools will operate this fall and what will happen to the stock market.

“You add to that the civil unrest that’s happening really worldwide now but certainly within the United States,” Lang said. “Many of us in our communities have an opportunity to rethink who we are and what we’re doing and whether or not we’ve been adequately engaged in the sacred work of hearing the voices of those who’ve been long silenced and responding to those in a faithful and compassionate way.”

Consider taking time as an individual to acknowledge that “I don’t know how to be out in this wilderness, but I trust that God is with me in this, and I’m going to be paying attention to see what God is doing with me and in me out here in the wilderness,” Lang said. “Then you come to new understandings that you would have found harder to get to if you’d been living in a world that wasn’t quite so bewildering.”

Watch the webinar by clicking here.

The work of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is made possible by gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering. Peacemaking is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Darla Carter, Communications Associate, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  “The Pilgrim’s Compass: Finding and Following the God We Seek” Book

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lorraine Brown, Office of the General Assembly
Andrew Browne, Board of Pensions

Let us pray:

Loving God, your Son identified himself with the most overlooked. Guide and bless efforts to discover and exalt the presence of Jesus in the lives of those whom the world has abandoned. We ask this in the name of the Christ who welcomed the children into his arms. Amen.