When I first started in ministry, I was blessed to work with veteran volunteers who had been involved in my area for years. They were a support and a gift, and conversations often reflected back on how things used to be. “Remember when…” or sometimes, “Too bad we don’t have this or that anymore,” were common phrases in our discussions. I didn’t mind them reflecting on past experiences or other volunteers they knew, but it became a problem when we weren’t appreciating who and what we had before us.
As we begin to reopen our parishes and resume public worship, things will be familiar, but at the same time, they’ll be quite different. There will be many opinions on how best to figure out new protocols, adapt systems, and find ways to be inviting while still adhering to safety recommendations. Some will be upset, some will be encouraged, and some will live somewhere in between.
God has used — and continues to use — this time to draw us closer to Him. People we used to see every Sunday will come back to the parish changed. People we have never seen before will feel pulled to our parish. How will we receive them? What will they experience when they come to us?
Will they hear people saying that Mass is better when there are more people, more music, more everything, implying that those who are gathered are not enough? Will they overhear people saying how upset they were that their friends couldn’t make it into this Mass because others took “their spot”? Will people feel that their family or friends are judged for still worshipping at home? Will people limit each other, or expect others to proceed the way we used to, just because that’s how it’s always been?
We have a great opportunity and responsibility to set the tone with our parishioners and newcomers during this time. We need to see people for who they are today and help them see others in the same way. We need to be open to those who walk through the door, not knowing what brings them here each day, and we need to be ready to do all this during each liturgy and each week. We know that this is core to any ministry, but it is especially important to remember it now.
Nostalgia is looking back with rose-colored glasses at the best of each situation. Reminiscing and thinking back on shared times is a good thing, but it cannot be the only thing we do. Let us use this time to not only look back, but to be sure to see the good that God is working right in front of our eyes, and let us help others to see that, too.