“It’s been a year…”
How often did you hear that lament last year? And how much more often have you heard it this year? It’s not only been a remarkably unusual year — it’s been a remarkably unusual pair of years — politically, medically, socially, religiously, and for many of us — personally.
But when I say, “It’s been a year,” I mean something different.
In March, 2020 our church stopped gathering for worship on Sundays in accord with directions from our State, along with all other churches in our area. For 13 weeks, the worship service (Scripture readings, prayers, and sermon) were recorded on Friday afternoons in an empty sanctuary, then combined with music that had been pre-recorded by our musicians, and played at our usual worship service times on Sunday morning as a live-stream event. For 13 weeks, we did not meet together.
And then on the fourteenth week, we began re-gathering for worship. The worship service really was live and there were people in the auditorium. That first Sunday back to a more normal kind of worship was June 14, 2020. “It’s been a year” since we first started gathering together again for worship.
As we look back on the past year, it is fitting to think about the faithfulness of God and what He has done in that year:
- He has maintained our unity. Disunity is always a danger in a church body (see, for instance, 1 Cor. 11:17-22). When we don’t see each other face-to-face and interact with one another regularly, the potential for fracture and disunity increases. When personal opinions about meeting, masks, vaccines (and more) are strong, the potential for disharmony increases. Despite differing personal opinions, our church body has largely laid those aside for the sake of caring for others instead of ourselves. Our common love for Christ and our joint commitment to ministry and harmony has endured.
- He has strengthened our love for one another and our commitment to relationship. Separation has made our hearts sing with joy at being together. Being apart reminded us of the privilege of being together. Our love has not diminished but has grown and flourished still more (see 1 Thess. 4:9-10 — that’s been the Lord’s gift to us).
- He cared for needs through us. There have been illnesses, a few personal financial needs, family moves to make, people to be discipled, and difficulties to be counseled. And we have seen the needs of the flock being met. Teachers have taught, disciplers have discipled, and counselors have been trained and have counseled. Ministry has looked different at times, but ministry has remained effective.
- He provided for us financially. The giving to the church has increased in the past year, so because expenses have also been down (except for technology to accommodate meeting in the Ministry Building for worship), the general fund is strong and robust, as is the benevolence fund and virtually every other aspect of our ministry. In the midst of the Pandemic and financial uncertainties, our church body has remained generous in its giving.
- He led us to concrete long-range facility plans as part of our long-range ministry plans (including a new concrete parking lot, which should be completed by the end of summer).
- He expanded our music ministry through the leadership of David Laminack and the inclusion of several new musicians, enabling us to have more “teams” of musicians. Those different teams have eased pressure on the musicians for playing every Sunday and given diversity to our “sound” and expanded the number of songs we sing.
- He created an opportunity to return to one worship service. Our goal for 2020 was to meet together in the Ministry Building four times that year. Because of the need to have increased spacing when we began re-gathering last June, we began meeting in the Ministry Building, built new sound and video systems for that building, and now are planning to meet there indefinitely, which keeps us from having to return to having two worship services. Not having two worship services provides a better opportunity for knowing one another and being unified and it simplifies ministry on Sunday morning.
- He increased the size and influence of the church body. We have taken in more new members in the past 12 months than in any other 12 month period in our church’s history. And the number is continuing to grow.
In these ways and more, the Lord has provided graciously and abundantly for us in the past year — pouring out grace after grace after grace on us, so that we have been showered and lavished with His kindness.
It’s been a year.
It’s been a good, grace-filled year.