"Uncle!" Your pastor has relented. We are now re-instituting our popular Sunday Zoom Fellowship Hour, under the new and improved branding: "Zoom Coffee Talk" at 10:30 AM between services. (**Please note that "Coffee Talk" must be pronounced with a New York accent reminiscent of the Mike Myers SNL skit from the 1990s.)
I must admit, I did drag my heels for weeks on this, but your pastor is not a person incapable of changing her mind.
It's not that I didn't love our Zoom coffee hour; truly, I did. In fact, when we were all at home, I got to know many of you during Zoom coffee hour in a much deeper way than I ever would have during the busy pleasantries that happen in Fellowship Hall on Sunday mornings.
But the truth is that I've grown to resent Zoom. These virtual gatherings have come to symbolize for me all the ways in which my life and ministry have changed. After 16 months, I am still not accustomed to the substitutions we have made. Typing "Good Morning!" does not feel like hugging friends during the "Passing the Peace." Breaking bread by myself at the communion table does not feel like the Lord's Supper. Zoom pastoral care with someone with whom I cannot make eye contact or pass a box of tissues feels cold and clinical.
But truly, both online and in-person ministry have their own unique blessings. Teachers, healthcare workers, and pastors like me must accept the fact that we are not going back -- even if this virus disappears tomorrow. Our entire life, ministry, and way of being as a church family has changed. I admit, as I stare down the barrel of life as a single working mom, I will need hybrid options going forward for evening meetings. The homebound in our congregation need if they are to make it to worship or small groups. Traveling professionals still long for a community of faith. Inclusivity these days often looks like a laptop.
So it is my prayer that we as a church family may continually evolve in our online, in-person, and at-home ministries to include to all God's children, whether they be in-person or online, rich or poor, young or old, black or white, gay or straight, able or disabled. God never separates us into classes of worshippers - those in in-person and those online - and so neither should we. So let us all widen the welcome of our ministries to those at home -- not just when the virus is spreading -- but from this day forward.