In the first sentence of this month’s section on “Worship Notes”, you’ll no doubt notice that I use the term “re-gather” to describe the time when we resume in-person Worship, classes and meetings.

For the past several months, I had been using the term “re-open” to describe this time in the vast majority of my communications to you. But it occurred to me recently that it would be helpful to drop that term from my – and our – vocabulary regarding First Parish for the sake of ‘truth in advertising”.

The fact of the matter is that we won’t “re-open” because we never “closed” in the first place. Circumstances made it unwise for us to gather together in-person to Worship, study, pray, meditate, conduct committee business, or socialize, but we never stopped engaging in any of those parts of our spiritual community’s life. No, it hasn’t been ideal, but it has worked. More importantly though, it has made us better as a community of God’s people.

Over these last seven months, significantly more people have been participating in Worship and study through our consistently improving virtual efforts than when we were exclusively gathering in person. Committees have continued to meet to faithfully deliberate and fulfill their vital duties. Connections between our members and friends have been maintained, and in some instances renewed. On a regular basis, some act of thoughtfulness and kindness carried out by one of you for the sake of another has been brought to my attention.

In a few days, it will be the one year anniversary of your calling me to join you as First Parish’s Minister. A major factor in my decision to accept that invitation was that you convinced me you were ready, willing, excited and committed to letting God move you in new ways and directions that would make this a more vital spiritual community – one able to respond to changing times, circumstances, and the needs of God’s people, with flexibility and creativity.

None of us, obviously, is grateful for this pandemic. But one of the core questions the Bible and our tradition continually put before us is how faithfully we will respond in difficult, confusing, uncertain times.

For the past seven months, we have been passing that test. We have remained “open” even though we have not been “gathered”. And we will remain “open”. Always.