On Getting Stuck in the Waiting Place

How are you managing all of the changes that have happened in our lives since the middle of March? I remember seeing news reports from Italy in the early spring that showed people lined up, socially distanced, outside of grocery stores and thinking, “Well, that will never happen here.” Remember the simple advice to wash your hands and we will all be fine? Remember when your session worried about how to reach out to people beyond your church doors and then, in the blink of an eye, did it electronically? Remember when you collected a few boxes of macaroni and cheese inside your church door in a shopping cart as your food ministry and thought that was enough, only to adapt now to helping people in new ways so that they do not go hungry?

I am fine when I am dealing with the minutiae of each day. Do I have a mask in my purse as I head to the drug store? Exactly what do I need, where is it in the store, how will I get in and out quickly? How can I change my grocery shopping habits so that I do not just run to the store every time I need something but, instead, make a list and order it so it can be picked up? What new adventure can I have electronically with my grandchildren whom I have only seen once in person since the end of January?

But when I think about the big picture, it is still a little overwhelming. How will churches survive months of not meeting in person? Will people come back once they feel it is safe? What will it mean for congregations if potlucks and coffee hour and youth group lock-ins and mission trips to faraway places are on hold for years?

In uncertain times, we often turn to the texts that give us guidance and hope. Perhaps, like me, you have turned to the great sage, Dr. Seuss, to be reminded of the places we will go. There we are reminded that we have “brains in our heads and feet in our shoes.” God has given us the tools we need to address the challenges before us.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of that simple fact. “You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.” No kidding! Talk about the streets not being marked. . . But, our constitution in the PCUSA helps to mark those streets for us. We have the Great Ends of the Church. They are the road map to what we are to do in whatever circumstances present themselves: proclaim the gospel in a way that reminds all people of God’s salvation; take care of our children and the children of the world; worship; preserve of the truth, not letting the vagaries of the present age deflect us from the truth that God loves us and there is nothing we can do about it; promote justice for all people; show the world what it means to live into the hope that comes into the world through Jesus.

Dr. Seuss reminds us that we might get stuck in the “waiting place” where people are just waiting for something to happen, for someone else to change things, for the world to make sense the way it once did. But then he reminds us we must move forward.  We must leave that place behind and strike out on the road again because our mountain is waiting.

You are climbing a mountain, whether you are a pastor or another church leader or in specialized ministry supported by the life and prayers of the congregation where you worship. It is a foggy, twisty road ahead. But you do not walk alone.
On this long, twisty road
with this burdensome load
decisions and deadlines and doubts all around.
Be brave.
Be courageous and a bit ostentatious;
Claim the truth of the gospel as your solid ground.
Bring hope as your banner
bring peace in your manner
and proclaim the good news for it still will abound. 
The Rev. Susan (Sue) Krummel
Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago