[This blog was written several months ago and posted to my old site that is no longer available.  Because this topic is very personal to me, I have edited to reflect our current situation of the pandemic and our inability to join others in our respective communities of faith]

Podcast:  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/growing-forward-together/id1510373513

In 2016 I had a vision of vines growing from the inside of the church building and popping bricks off the structure.  If I was the only one that had that vision, I would have questioned it further.  However, a close friend, who is much more seasoned in age and experience than I am, had the same vision.   I sensed that the vision was God providing us as the Church with a caution – that if we didn’t change the way we were doing things within our congregations in regards to the care of people, the “vines” (more like weeds that were choking and dividing people rather than uniting them) would begin to push the “bricks” (representing the people) out of relationships and connections. These bricks would then be divided, resulting in them being separated and ill-equipped with what they need from the Body to thrive.

Now, four years later, we, along with the whole world, seem to be experiencing this first-hand.  Our church buildings are closed, the doors are locked and off limits, and the people have all been relegated to their homes in their communities.  So, what do we do now?

I found this picture on a friend’s social media page and with her permission I am using it to illustrate my thoughts.

Hopefully by now you have recovered from the poses and absence of certain body parts.  Since pictures speak a thousand words, I will leave it to you to make the connections you need to.  At first when I saw the picture, I had a flood of emotions.  After processing some of those thoughts, I knew that as a writer, I would need to take a deep dive into unpacking them!!

This picture reflects missing or broken limbs, missing body parts – so much detachment. Based on many conversations I have had recently; it seems that this is how the people in our churches were feeling before the pandemic – broken and detached.  I know of people who had gone missing from their faith communities – and no one noticed!   Some had detached themselves or parts of themselves because they didn’t feel like they fit or belonged (I was one of them).  Others simply moved on to other churches or communities that accepted them willingly.  Some simply drifted away all together. Now, all of us are either experiencing an extended “stay in place” order or a full lock-down.  It seems that we are experiencing an increase in this brokenness and disconnectedness more than ever before.

Can you relate?  Do you know someone who is feeling that way too?

During this pandemic when we have all been relegated to our homes and neighborhoods, we run the risk of forgetting about many who need this sense of community more than others.  Have you forgotten them?  Well then, what are you doing about it?  Aren’t we, as believers, called to “keep the body together”?  How are we to do that when we are unable to commune together physically?

The Answer – Be the Church!

This phrase has brought me great comfort and challenge over the years, and it bears repeating every day of every week (not just on Sundays) so that it grows deep roots into our hearts.

“We are the Church!”  Not new for some, but for those who have taken great solace in the church building (as an institution), they may have missed the truth that the Church is a WHO, not a WHAT.

Like I said, it bears repeating, “We are the Church!

I continue to dig deep to forgive those who weren’t willing to consider the vision I shared with them.  But I have come to understand that “God is God and I am not”.  I am human and sometimes I get the facts or the timing wrong.

But here we are four years later and so many people do not know what to do.  Or more importantly, they don’t know how to BE the Church and that truly breaks my heart!!

What will it take?  For those dolls, all they need is some good tape, the right glue, or some other strong adhesive to fix what’s broken.  But “how can we be the Church now that the doors are closed, and our buildings are unavailable and are bodies feel are broken?”

Here’s how…Practice inclusion.

For some of you that will be difficult because you weren’t practicing it before.  That’s ok, if you are not offended by that statement and are willing to learn, there’s hope!!  I have a few suggestions.

Make room. Make time. Share.

Make room at the table.  Don’t be exclusive and shut people out.  Maybe you get to be the answer to the prayer in someone else’s story.  During this pandemic when we have a “stay in place” order, we are not allowed to have people over. So, schedule a Zoom / Skype / Google Meet time with them and eat your lunches / dinners in your own respective homes in order to comply with the order and be together.  Consider how you are “setting the table” in your relationships and circles of relationships.  Do people feel welcome?  Do they feel “fed”?  Will they experience “inclusion” – meaning will they fit and belong? Or will they experience just another form of forced assimilation – meaning they can’t come just as they are?  https://seemaglobalconsulting.com/setting-the-table/

Make time.  Prioritize your life so you have room for conversations you might not otherwise have.  Learn technology so you can connect with someone else.  Perhaps you become their lifeline as they face the loneliness and abandonment during this time.  Even though the belief is that “we have more time on our hands”, our priorities are still being redefined.  You are not alone in that.

Share.  Share food, resources, ideas, encouragement, prayers, whatever.  Don’t hoard, share.

So many people say, “we are in this together”.  But are we really? What does that look like in your story?

What does it mean to you?  To me, it means that we are all going through this together. Just that each of us is experiencing it differently and uniquely!! It pains me to see how many people who claim to be Christians are treating those less fortunate around them (in resource or experience).

No worries, this extrovert isn’t angry or bitter, I am just coming to a point in my life where I am humbled by a vision I had four years ago and am convicted of different choices I need to make as a result.

A few suggestions to help you re-enter…whenever that will be!!  (assuming you have some proximal relationship with the person).

DON’T SAY: “you look good, must be everything is going well!”

INSTEAD SAY: “I’ve missed seeing you, how have you been?” And actually, wait for the answer.

DON’T SAY: “I was giving you your space.”

INSTEAD SAY: “I’m sorry I was not able to connect with during the pandemic. Will you please forgive me?”  (or something that sounds like you are stepping into their mess with them and have learned something during this time).

Want to learn more?

“Inclusion Enhances Belonging” document: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1f_VsE830tVBQM97sGntiQWZDJqzSb_rO

Let’s do our part to fix The Body.   Who’s ready to do their part?!?!

Blessings, Kinita