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Where this way leads

Driving north passing cows and hay bales, the clouds above are close enough I can almost touch them. From the backseat, my daughter Charlotte draws me in with her question: “Where this way leads, Mama?” To my left I see a road curving around farm fields.

“I don’t know where that road goes, maybe to some more houses.”

I glance in the rearview mirror and see Charlotte’s fingers pressed into the glass, almost as if she’s conjuring the road’s path to reveal itself. Continuing forward we pass another road and Charlotte asks again: “Where that road leads?”

Her question seems to be the question for 2020? Am I right? Looking back to where we’ve been and wondering about the future, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Personally, I wonder where kindergarten will lead us this year as my daughter goes to school full time - entering a school year like no other. I wonder when travel will feel safe. Most pressing of all, I wonder where this year will lead us as a people? Will we turn towards one another with compassion and a posture of listening? Will we travel together committed to the good of all? Will we take time to slow down and see the beauty in our midst?

These are relevant questions for the church, too. For many congregations the question looms - when will it feel safe to return to in-person worship? For others they’re wondering when they can forgo some of the precautions that are in place. What does Christian education look like in the months ahead? How will the church survive financially? What about the health and wholeness of the clergy and leadership? When will our souls have a rest? There are a lot of questions and a lot of uncertainty, yet the church continues to be the church during this time. We’ve been forced to remember that the church is not a building, but the people bound together by God.

My kids and I continue to worship in our living rooms. As a pastor myself I’ve been able to supply preach for churches via computer across the United States. I also led a month-long socially-distanced internship on vocation for youth in our congregation. During June we met with members of the community to hear about their callings and how God is at work in their lives. We took time to listen and to pray. One evening we visited our town’s animal shelter and heard from the man who cares for the animals. His story provides a perfect example of what it means to be the church today and everyday.

The gravel crunches beneath my tires as I approach the gate to the city’s water treatment plant. Our group pulls in behind the truck be