167 DAYS

167 Days

By Mindy LaHood
The sanctuary at First United Methodist Church has been and will always be a special place for me.  I love the beauty of the stained glass, the majesty of the cross, and the overwhelming peace and presence of God I feel when I’m there.  I missed being in that space for worship the past 23 Sundays.

On August 23rd, as I sat on the outside edge of the last pew in the balcony -- socially distanced from the one other person worshiping from the balcony that morning -- I felt a wide range of emotions.  It had been 167 days since we last worshiped together in the sanctuary.  And, while I completely understood why we had to stop meeting together in person, it didn’t make that time apart any easier.  

I firmly believe that it’s the people that make up the Church and not the building.  And, it is because of this that I believe God was glorified and honored through our continued worship online.  Still, I missed seeing members of my church family, I missed praying alongside one another, I missed lifting up our voices together in song, and I missed hearing the word of God from Pastor Tim in the flesh.

So, as I sat in the balcony on our first Sunday back, I was full of all sorts of emotions.  The excitement of being greeted by a familiar face, the anticipation of seeing and catching up with people, the blessing of hearing live music, the comfort of praying together and for one another, the peace that settled upon my heart while hearing the message in person -- all of these emotions were overwhelming.  Once the first note and the first word of the opening hymn were sung, tears immediately filled my eyes.  It had been so long since I felt the overwhelming presence of God in that beautiful space.  

The separation that the COVID crisis has caused has not been fun for anyone.  However, I am thankful for what it has taught me and for what it has reminded me to be thankful for.  I am now even more grateful for the people who make up my church family.  I won’t miss opportunities to tell them how much they mean to me.  I am thankful that we have a beautiful space to worship in...and that we have the freedom and opportunity to gather for worship.  I’m beyond grateful for the pastors and staff at our church who worked so very hard to try and keep us all connected.  Not to mention, the time and effort they put into planning and producing online services for us each week.  

This pandemic is far from over and I’m sure there will be setbacks.  I’m certain it will be a while before worship and all the other activities at church will return to normal...or a new normal.  But, in the meantime, I’m going to give praise and thanks to God for every opportunity to worship in person along with members of my church family.