Returning From Exile

    July 31, 2020 | Stories by Dottie Henry

    All of us are experiencing effects of COVID-19—we’re facing challenges personally, in our church families, with friends, and in our careers. We were all doing life normally and then we woke up one morning to find everything changed. And things continue to change for us.

    We’re dealing with disruption—there are so many unknowns. There are probably more unknowns than knowns right now. All of us have been and are still adjusting. We have seen a response of creativity and innovation around the country. You, my friend, are doing a magnificent job of holding your part of the planet together!

    We’ve now reached the time to begin thinking about re-entry and what that might look like. Recognize it will be different for everyone. Think about being invited to go to a country where no one has ever gone. There’s nothing written about it. You can’t Google it. There’s no roadmap for it. There’s no strategy for it. We’ve got to help each other as we venture into this new country. Our God can take all of these unknowns and do something really, really, beautiful with them.

    Consider Ezra and Nehemiah. They were exiled from their faith community. They were exiled from the work community. They were exiled from their extended families. They were removed from all that felt familiar.

    Being exiled at home has been hard some days. Some days it’s been great. Other days I long for my faith community. I long for my extended family and friends. I long for what I once considered normal.

    The beautiful part of Ezra and Nehemiah is that these exiles get to go home. It’s the place where the temple of God had stood, but it’s no longer there. As they return, they find the foundation in ruins, so they begin to rebuild that foundation. Then the temple is finished, altars are finished, the walls are finished, and the people are rededicating themselves to God as they remember His faithfulness to them.

    But if you look carefully at that story, you will find some who have returned are now looking at this new temple that does not look the same as the temple they knew before. It doesn’t hold the same grandeur. They decide it can’t hold the same meaning for them that that original one did. They are struggling.

    And that’s true for what’s happening for us. We are a people who are really struggling to know what is safe and what is good.

    This hiatus that we’ve taken because of COVID is going to change what church looks like. It might not change the building physically, but the church has never been about the building for any of us.

    The church is about the people, and our people have changed because of COVID.

    None of us have the answers but let’s be encouraging and get in the conversation with God and each other.  Let’s return together…though our opinions may differ; our hearts are united under God.

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