Lessons in hope from a year like no other

"As we become more comfortable with the new systems applied to church life, we grow less anxious and stressed." Photo: Mbframes/Shutterstock
Published March 15, 2021

In my column for Lent I want to declare that we can learn other ways of “being” church and new ways of “doing” church. This has been my experience.

We have heard a lot of doom and gloom lately about the future of the church in our land. The fact we have been fighting a deadly virus for a year has not helped. And yet I would like to suggest that during these times, good things—even improvements—can occur in local Christian communities. Please allow me to add for you some substance to this claim.

In a spirit of sharing real-life discoveries, without going into details, I want to celebrate that—since Lent 2020—we at St. David’s United Church, Calgary, have experienced some important community enhancements. Twelve months of battling and learning from difficult times can boost a congregation. Mine is a grassroots message of hope for many other struggling local Christian groups like ours.

A first lesson we have re-learned is to engage creatively the various gifts that members of our community possess. Clergy and other congregational leaders don’t need to do all the work! There are many other capable “ministers” out there who are happy to offer their talents and training.

Of course, we are grateful for those with Zoom videoconferencing skills who help us worship, learn, have fellowship and serve in new ways. As we become more comfortable with the new systems applied to church life, we grow less anxious and stressed.

Human relations can even be enhanced! We have also discovered that our life together can benefit from the participation of people who were not previously with us.

Real change for the better often starts with good leadership, and we at St. David’s are blessed to have clergy and laity who are good guides in both word and deed.

Recently we have heard from a series of Sunday morning speakers who have helped us integrate biblical and wisdom liturgies with daily living. Christian community is enhanced when participants feel they can contribute what is important to them.

When we first faced technical and other challenges to our comfortable routines, they seemed formidable. Working through them with persons having both spiritual and professional gifts has helped us to re-envision challenges and to see them as opportunities. Technical people, we re-discovered, are indispensable to good worship.

As vaccine injections to counter the virus become generally available, there is a noticeable enlargement of hope and optimism in many people. We begin to think of doing things in the community without resistance. We anticipate hugging and other forms of physical contact we’ve been missing for so long. We look forward to intergenerational connection.

For many Canadians—including many in our churches—these things can’t come too soon. We would be wise to be cautious, however, about returning to what was previously “normal” behaviour in our enthusiasm to return to what we lived before.

My experience of the twelve months separating Lent 2020 from a new Lent 2021 tells me that this past year has provided helpful lessons for doing some things differently in the future. Who knows? We might look back to these times with some gratitude.


  • Wayne Holst

    Wayne A. Holst was a Lutheran pastor (ELCIC) for twenty-five years; he taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary for a quarter century and, for 15 years, he has coordinated adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church, Calgary.

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