One year ago this March we left our building at 6300 A Street, to ‘flatten the curve to buy time for our health care workers to respond to the pandemic.’ At the time it felt like a dramatic, short term step to get ahead of a pandemic that was rapidly escalating. While announcing that we were closing our building, I went back to the long history of this congregation, which has survived and prospered through pandemics, world wards, economic depressions, and civil unrest in the past. As we began this leap into the unknown, those stories of commitment felt prescient.
I do not know that any of us would have predicted, then, what we know now: that this pandemic would last for over a year, and that online worship would become the default for a time. That in March of 2021, we would still be out of our building, but starting to plan a return as the first members of our community began to be vaccinated.
This has been a year of many experiments, many new ways of trying things both out of opportunity and necessity. One of my favorite movies is Apollo 13, which tells the story of the 1976 moon landing mission that had to be waved off, mid-flight, after an explosion on the spacecraft. There is a scene in the movie when engineers at NASA have to figure out how to fit a round air scrubber into a square hole, using nothing but the materials on hand on the spacecraft: much of congregational life in the last year has felt like that. From the first frantic months trying to figure out how to fit the square peg of worship into the round hole of the internet, to the worry about scarce resources, to the long wait before coming back home, there’s a lot in the story that resonates with the last 12 months of congregational life.
On one hand, Apollo 13 is a sad story, a film about a triumph missed, and opportunity that slipped by in the aftermath of catastrophe- but that is not how the story is usually told. The story instead is one about ingenuity, courage, commitment, and support.
As we mark one year since leaving our building at 6300 A St, I wonder what the story we will tell about this year will be? Will we tell the sad story, of how we were apart for a year? Or will we tell the story of commitment even in the midst of pandemic? We will remember this season for the rest of our lives. How will we commemorate it? And is it possible that we come out of it with a renewed sense of commitment to each other and our faith?
Rev. Oscar Sinclair serves as the Settled Minister for The Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska.