Today I’d like us to remember those who are expecting babies in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s scary enough being pregnant. Pregnant bodies ache and swell in unfamiliar ways. Pregnant bodies experience moments of utter exhaustion and other moments of superhuman strength. Pregnant people are expecting new life, imagining new life, preparing for new life but don’t know what that new life will be like. We do know that – once that new life arrives – our own lives will never be the same. But expecting a child in the throes of social distancing and toilet paper hoarding ratchets up the anxiety levels substantially.
But this post is not about pregnant people.
This is a post about the Church that will be born after this pandemic. My very wise friend and colleague Mary Ann McKibben Dana has famously said that the Church is not dying; it’s pregnant. Unfamiliar things are happening. And sometimes we feel like we are going to die.
But we are not dying. We are simply experiencing some serious labor pain. Before any of us had ever heard of COVID-19, there was concern about what the 21st Century Church was becoming. There was pain about technical transitions and other transitions.
A pregnant Church during a pandemic is even scarier.
- Will everybody be used to staying home on Sunday mornings?
- Will we permanently shift Bible studies and meetings to ZOOM calls after noticing that attendance was actually higher when people didn’t have to travel for those gatherings?
- Will our congregations without the capacity for technology permanently shutter their doors?
- Will we stop passing the offering plate after acclimating to online giving?
- Will the trauma after weeks of sickness and death, after not being able to say good-bye properly to retiring pastors or family at their death beds, after missing out on joyous celebrations like graduations, after losing our jobs, after having to shelter in unsafe places be too much to bear?
- Will Church mission and other programming become more trauma-informed?
We don’t know. But I agree with those who say that “this is hard” but it will be even more difficult after the pandemic ends. Yes, there will be joy in the streets. There will be happy group hugs. And then there will be processing all the grief.
And so let us pray for those who are expecting babies in these pandemic days. And let us also pray for the pandemically pregnant Church. There are crucial trends coming.
Greek icon of Mary and her cousin Elizabeth both expecting babies. I love the extra person checking on them from behind the curtain. That person is all of us.