Happy New Year

“Happy New Year” is a very popular greeting. And this year we are really hoping for a happy new year with vaccines for Covid 19 and a return to some normalcy.

Yet Covid will have some long-term effects. We can’t predict them all. I met a man recently who is new to my neighborhood, and he works in the motel industry. I think I’ll be eager to take a trip or two this year after going over a year without a vacation. But some predictions indicate otherwise. People may be hesitant to stay in motels with a new focus on germs.

What about physical stores where you go and shop? My wife and I have been Amazon Prime members since 2010, and in the past year we have greatly increased purchases online with several deliveries coming to our home each week. While I look forward to feeling comfortable going to stores, I believe we will continue to get a good number of home deliveries.

We used to eat out a lot. I’m the primary cook in our family, and it’s nice to have a break, with someone coming to your table, bringing food and a bit of conversation. I remember years ago, going to my farm by myself to do some work. It was suppertime and I was hungry, so I went to a restaurant. The hostess assumed I must be picking up food since I was alone. I told her I wanted a server who was a good conversationalist. I wanted someone to chat with a bit while I was eating.

This past year, for the first time in my life, I’ve occasionally had food from restaurants delivered to our home. In the past, even if we had prepared food to eat at our home, I would go and pick it up. I preferred that to waiting for someone to bring it to me.

I don’t know for sure what the long term effect will be on us, much less what other people may do. The downside of eating out is you don’t know how sanitary the cooks and kitchens are. When I was a teenager I knew other teenagers who worked in fast food restaurants who laughed about how they would kill flies over the food and they would drop down on the food. For quite sometime I gave up eating in fast food restaurants, even though I had greatly enjoyed eating hamburgers in my youth. But that didn’t last forever. Eventually, I went back to eating burgers, but I would lift the bun to see if there was anything there that didn’t belong.

Now I’ll turn to churches. I’m not currently serving as a pastor, and we have mostly worshiped online at home. So I think my thoughts are very relevant. I look very forward to feeling comfortable around people so that we can return to being at church. And those who are going to return are probably going to do so within the next several months. A lot of folks are out of the habit of going to church. Not all are going to return. This will be hard on pastors and church leaders, but it’s a reality that must be recognized. In addition to the loss of people, there will, in all likelihood, be a drop in giving. This is another difficulty that must be recognized.

But there is an upside.

People who attend will be the ones who want to be there.

Probably those who have been difficult members will not be there.

It should be easier to get rid of traditions and practices that don’t contribute to the mission of the church (or in some cases, hindered the mission of the church).

It also should be easier to focus on main ministries that reach out to a congregation’s community.

Pastors, it will be tough. But there are opportunities that will have long term benefits for ministry, evangelism, and discipleship.

Ashton C. “AC” Smith

You may reach me for consultation at ashtoncarpentersmith@gmail.com

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