I love how the beginning of the new year coincides with the celebration in the church of Epiphany. During Epiphany, we remember the journey of the Magi, astrologers from distant countries who took a long journey following a star, very winding and unknown at times, until they found the home where Jesus as a young child and his mother, Mary, were living. They offered expensive gifts to him, worshiped him, and then set off on a journey back to their homes. I can only imagine that they returned as totally different people after their experience. There was no going back to normal.
I’ve been thinking so much about the journey of the Magi as I reflect on the past year and look for what 2021 will bring. The journey of 2020 was unprecedented and unexpected for us as individuals, as a country, and as a church community. And yet, as a community, we found new and creative ways to live even more deeply into our values. We embraced the ways of Jesus and were creative, beautiful, vulnerable, authentic and inclusive in every aspect of our life together.
In 2020, this church community not only survived the challenges that COVID brought but we found ways to flourish, grow, deepen our connections and thrive. When unrest swept through Charleston over racial injustice, our community was present in powerful ways on the front lines of demonstrations, supporting Black-led responses, and confronting our own white privilege as a congregation. We grew our children’s spiritual formation experiences with online classes, house to house visits and support to parents. Our small groups continued to connect with new people. We gave away tens of thousands of dollars to our community partners, enabling life-saving and life-saving ministry to continue.
As we enter 2021, we will not be returning to “normal” as a congregation, whatever normal was. That’s because our journey has changed us for the better. We have experienced that digital worship is fully inclusive for our community because no one is left out. We connect with people all across the country in our online small groups, social media presence and, coming soon, online courses. Our commitment to partnering with agencies and organizations that serve the most vulnerable in our community does not waver. We will continue to lead ourselves and other churches across the Southeast and country in embracing the intersections of anti-racism and LGBTQIA+ inclusion. And as safe, in-person gatherings become possible as the year progresses, we will embrace that shift with the same innovation, creativity and care as we’ve taken on the rest of our journey.
I can’t wait to see where this year takes us. Like the Magi, I’m ready to be curious, to be determined and to be surprised. And most of all, I’m ready to embrace the change that an encounter with Jesus brings. I can’t wait to make this journey together.