From the Meetinghouse April 2022
Here's the article Liz wrote for the Monterey News April edition, due out in a couple weeks.
It’s been two years since I’ve written for The Monterey News—two really hard years, hard for me personally and for my household, hard for the church I’ve loved and served for so long, hard for us all. Worse, though we’ve all gone through this pandemic (this, the very meaning of the word, “pan-demic”), we’ve gone through it isolated from one another. So, though it’s likely we’ve all struggled, we haven’t struggled together, which makes this struggle even more difficult. Perhaps worst of all, this isolation has made almost impossible the already difficult project of imagining one another’s lives. But, never easy, imagining another’s experience of things is always worth the effort. The fruits of this are patience, forgiveness, compassion, things that lately seem in short supply. True in Monterey. True everywhere.
We might be coming out of it, though, for now anyway. Spring and summer ahead have me, for one, literally saying we’ve got to make hay while the sun shines, for we know not what fall and winter will bring. We’ve got to get out and be in one another’s presence while we can, while we safely, freely, even joyfully can. And the fact that it’s the 175thanniversary of the town’s incorporation makes it so we have lots of opportunities to come out, to be in one another’s company, and to feel grateful to be cast in one another’s lot.
The church is in its 272nd year. Established in 1750, it’s one of the oldest organizations in all of Berkshire County. My pastoring it, something I’ve done now for 21 years, is never a responsibility I take lightly. During the pandemic, the weight of it has only seemed greater. This, because the viability of it has seemed ever more precarious. Always an organization that has come down to the efforts of a handful of people, that handful is now even fewer in number. Five people, maybe six—to maintain a building nearly 200 years old, to stay in good standing with the Commonwealth and our denomination, all while nurturing the faith of our members and participants amidst hardship on top of hardship. Congregationalism is hard work for its members. Like democracy itself, it demands a lot of those who love it. So, we’ve tried to reimagine how we do things. But recent conversations with possible partners in the project of being a social good in South County have come to “no,” which has been nothing short of devastating to me.
What are we to do?
Much will be lost in the world following this pandemic. Many of our congregations throughout the county will be among all that loss. Tragically, the need for what congregational life can bring us is all the more pressing. Access to one another, trust and faith in one another, intimate relating among a company with whom there is little else in common but simple humanity: congregational life is rich soil for diverse growth.
The odds are against us, I know. And for so many reasons, I know.
But it’s April. It’s the month of Easter, that long ago morning when the weightiest odds were witnessed as upended.
Fools, these early witnesses were thought to be.
I’ve spent my adult life as just such a fool, foolishly hoping a critical mass of people will come along and love this thing as much as I do. I can’t say it’s easy. But I can say it’s the only thing worth doing with all that I am: holding out hope, in the words of the old hymn, that new every morning is the love.
Think of that: tomorrow morning we get another chance to love, to be loved.
A few issues ago of the Monterey News, Stephen our editor wrote up a list of things in town worth committing to and becoming a part of. Stephen felt it too sectarian to include the church on that list, so I’ll speak up for it here.
I realize the fact that the church is a confessing community, not simply a good cause, complicates any joining up with it. There are those who aren’t Christian. There are those who think we aren’t Christian. There are those who are active in other congregations. There are those who’ve washed their hands altogether of religion. But maybe there are people who aren’t in any of those categories.
If you’re one such, give church a try, where it’s consciously confessed that new every morning is love. And, while whether that’s objectively true is a matter of faith, the possibility that it might be subjectively true—that it might bring light and joy to the living of your days—is something you might want to try and see.
This I can say: it has for me.