Wow! Sports are back. Well, not quite. Athletes are competing once again, but it isn’t the same. Tennis and basketball have requested that players restrict their contacts with others and have been placed in a bubble for their matches and games. All teams in MLB are playing, but the schedule has been shortened to 60 regular-season games.
Last Saturday, NBC aired its annual coverage of the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs was grey as the usual colorful display of Derby suits and hats were missing. And professional football is poised to begin. I’m not sure if any fans will be permitted at those games either. I am sure that the lack of people in the stands will be as much a topic of conversation as which teams have the potential to make the playoffs.
Still, someone at most events has been innovative about how fans are represented. Baseball has placed cardboard cutouts of people in some seats to give the appearance that there are fans. The U. S. Open Tennis tournament has partnered with Zoom allowing some fans to show their support of their favorite players. After each match, a player can stand in front of a larger screen to have a conversation with a family member or receive a question from the fan of the day.
We all know it’s not the same. And for now, it is the new normal. I don’t know if I ever realized how much the fans contributed to the contest. Cheering, waving, and even booing was part of the energy that added to what unfolded on the court, field, or ice. We are coping. We are adapting.
And yet, we still view this time as a temporary adjustment. As soon as the strength of the virus wanes, we will go back to the way things used to be. We will be able to pack stadia to the brim once again. Or will we? I don’t want to make any predictions on how long masks may be required or recommended, or if social distancing will continue to be implemented at restaurants, gyms, stadia, and movie theaters.
That brings me to an important question for us to consider. What is happening with our churches? I don’t know if we ever thought about the amount of social interaction that was so much a part of our Sundays and weekdays until the virus prevented us from gathering in person. From Fellowship Hour before or after the service, the worship service itself, which usually included a time of greeting one another, to pot lucks, craft groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout meetings, being home for Alcoholics, Gamblers or Narcotics Anonymous, UMM, and UMW meetings, Bible Studies and other ways we gather as a community, the church was an essential part of our lives and our relationships.
We are eager to be back in church, to see our friends, to share what’s been happening in our lives, to greet one another with the love of Christ, to break bread together, and to plan for the next mission to support those who have relied on our work to support them in their life journeys. It’s been too long since we were able to be with one another. And sadly, we really had no time to prepare for the difference between then and now.
Hear the good news. We are coping. We are adapting. And more importantly, we are planting seeds for new ways to create relationships and maintain the relationships we have. What are we learning about who we are and especially about who we can become? How are our faith communities making a difference as we continue to journey through the pandemic? What new ministries and missions are we creating? How are we shaping the new normal as we continue to embrace the Great Commission? Be assured that the Lord is with us in all that we do. May we embrace God’s call upon our lives as we live into the new normal. And Amen.