I am wrestling with ways to keep the rhythm of the church year as school gets underway. Our congregation is still worshiping remotely. Our local school districts are going to start the year in a virtual learning mode. There are so many unknowns about the pandemic and how it will continue to shape our gatherings, and I am yearning for our fall traditions and finding ways to keep them, safely and creatively.
Children are such wonderful creatures of habit. Their earliest learning is done through repetition and ritual. It is the same for faith. Worship is full of beautiful rituals that we can observe, even when our Sundays are so different. Saying prayers together at a meal or bedtime gives us space to talk to God daily. Reading stories from the Bible and talking about them reminds our children, and ourselves, that God’s love and faithfulness has been ever present throughout all human time and beyond. Singing songs of the church gives our hearts a place to pour out our deepest joys and sorrows. Giving to those in need in our community, our country, and our world helps us share God’s love to all our neighbors.
This fall the appointed readings for Sundays center around vineyards. We read the stories of the vineyard workers, grapes, wine and weddings and talk about how Jesus used so many common and relatable ways to teach people in his day. As we move into the season of harvest, these stories remind us that we are always connected to the earth, to God’s creation. As we observe socially distant holidays, it will be important to find the ritual of love and sharing to bring us back to what feels familiar and important.
Ask the children around you what are the important parts of their fall rituals at church that they love and look forward to. Share memories of your own childhood and what was strange and wonderful about it. Create rituals around prayer, song, learning, and giving. These things can be done in any time and help us to grow our faith in love. We look to God’s word with the understanding that we are not alone in this world that is ever-changing and unpredictable. God is never changing.