The Awkwardness of Regathering

The Awkwardness of Regathering

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Warning: This memo does not have any answers or deep wisdom about the state of the church. If you need that I am sorry. If you are okay with my mushing around in the awkwardness of regathering, please read on. As you know, the SNEUCC Conference has been conservative in their approach to staff and in-person gatherings. So, I can count on one hand the number of in-person events I have been to in the last 18 months. And so, this past Sunday, for the first time, I was in-person with one church in the morning celebrating the ending of their pastor’s ministry, and later that day, I was with another church celebrating the beginning of their new pastor’s ministry through a long-awaited Installation.

What was awkward for me was that there are no clear-cut rules any more about how we greet one another. I found myself going in for a hug only to receive a fist bump to my belly, then I offered my fist for a bump and received an elbow jab. After a few greetings like this, I felt like just doing the Hokey Pokey and turning myself around. It was awkward. How do we greet people these days? Again, an awkward moment was when, I saw someone I recognized, but couldn’t remember their name, so I asked. I was told and felt embarrassed, and then remembered I had never met the person other than on a Zoom meeting once. It was awkward, moving from Zoom intimacy from the comforts of our offices and homes, to in-person, not knowing the norms of the day or the comfort level of a person before us.

I wish I had easy answers about how to maneuver safely through our tentative steps of regathering. Of course, we can follow the guidance of the CDC and the recommendations of the Conference, but when you stand before a dear church member or colleague that you haven’t been physically near in over a year, if you are like me, all you want to do is pull them into a big ‘ole bear hug. But if you do so without checking in, you might end up with a fist bump to the belly. It was awkward.

I said I don’t have any wisdom, but I do have a couple of thoughts. First, I remember a YouTube video I saw not long ago about kids greeting kids each morning at the start of the school day (pre-pandemic). How it worked was, one child was the greeter and stood at the door. Next to that child, was a sign that offered a variety of illustrated greetings. When a child got to the door, they would point to the kind of greeting they wanted from the list on the door: a wave, a hug, a handshake or a fist bump. The greeter knew exactly what the child before them wanted, and the entering child had the autonomy to choose. Perfect! I am thinking maybe I will make a sign like that for next Sunday’s in-person activities I will be attending. Before I lunge in with arms open wide, I will pause and have people point to their preferred greeting. I am not sure that would be less awkward, but it might be fun!  And finally, I know I need to be gentler with myself, and I hope you can be, too. We will make mistakes. We will need to work on our communication and on our listening. And we need to remember that we are on this crazy, awkward, delicate and sacred journey together and that means a lot. So, lets offer kindness and patience to ourselves and to one another. Let’s be the church, living the love and justice of Jesus, even with our awesome awkwardness, bashful boldness and tentative tenacity.  Sending all you readers a virtual hug! LOL.


Photo by Noah on Unsplash
 

Author

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Patty Kogut

Patty Kogut is the Area Conference Minister for the Southeast Region of the Southern New England Conference, assisting with pastoral searches and transitions, providing support for churches and pastors and working with Association committees in the ...

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