We have learned so much during the pandemic. We have deepened our faith and grown spiritually so much during this time. And the God that we have learned to follow more closely in the hardest parts of pandemic will help us as we continue to ease our way out of pandemic. (Time: 5:17.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. As part of my visitation with churches on Sundays, we do something after the service that I call the congregational conversation. It's a chance for me to hear from the congregation and, during pandemic, I've only had one question that I've wanted answered during that time and that is, “How are you doing?” And every member of the congregation that wants to share an answer to that question has a minute or two to answer it. We don't have time to hear everybody's full story but really in two minutes, we're able to hear a good sense of how people are doing.
It's a blessing every single Sunday because most congregations – I'd say at least 80 percent, sometimes more, sometimes every single person on the call – answers that question and it's not just for me to hear, it's for everyone else who's on the call. These are zoom calls – everyone else who is on the call that's a member of that congregation gets an update on everyone else as does their priest. It's a blessing – it's also a healing time and an instructive time because one of the things that we learned during that time is just how much we have come to know, in all of this, how much we have changed, how much we have grown. And then we also learned the parts of ourselves that are hurting or that are grieving and that need the help of each other.
One of the things that has been coming up recently in those calls – especially since vaccines have become more prevalent and safety guidelines have relaxed and we are gathering and we can go into certain areas without masks if we're fully vaccinated – is the sense of incredible joy that people have that this looks to be coming to an end, the sense of relief that people have that we don't have to wear a mask forever. But also this sense of carefulness and wariness that we still have to watch things, a recognition that there was no switch that got flipped that ended pandemic on a certain day at a certain time. And that we've been careful and caring for ourselves, for the health of ourselves and our families and our neighbors for so long that now we know that things have changed. But how do we know who's been vaccinated, who's not been vaccinated and who do we need to protect? And a sense of really wanting to protect all of those around us.
The thing that I've encouraged people about on those calls – and that I want to encourage you about today – is this will take some time. It'll take some time. And the way God has been with us every step of this, through all the hardest parts of pandemic – God will be with us in this part, where we navigate whatever it is that the journey has for us at this point. And part of that is determining what we want our lives to look like post-pandemic: what are the things that we want to do with our time? What do we want to stay committed to? How busy do we want to be? And how much time do we want to make sure that we have for our family life, for our health, for our spiritual lives?
We'll also continue to figure out mask or not mask. Do I feel comfortable gathering? Do I not feel comfortable gathering? And that will take time. And I want you to trust the fact that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. And if you feel a pause, perhaps that's the Spirit telling you, “Hang on, be cautious for a moment.” And you can ask the same Spirit, you can ask that God's Spirit would show you when it is time, to help you to discern the places where you do feel ready to spend time with other people. It will all come with time. I have no doubt.
We have been through the worst already. I say that with confidence – I also say that with hopefulness. This part that is in front of us will take some navigation but it's navigating that we can do and many of us can help each other out as we do that.
We have learned so much during this time. We have deepened our faith and grown spiritually so much during this time. And the God that we have learned to follow more closely in the hardest parts of pandemic will help us as we continue to ease our way out of pandemic. So take the time that you need, be gentle with yourself and know that it will all work itself out in a way that makes you feel comfortable and safe. And give yourself the time that you need to be able to figure out what is best for you and best for your family.