Recently I was in Arizona to officiate my sister’s wedding. While in Arizona my dad took me to Papago Park to show me The Hole in the Rock. I learned that, “There is evidence that the Hohokam, early inhabitants of the region, used and recorded the position of the sunlight shining through the latter opening to mark the seasons — notably the equinoxes and the solstices, which were marked by carving a slack area in the real.” Marking the time in this way would help them in planting and harvesting their crops.
This led me to think about how we mark and measure our time. I am a person who thrives on routine and planning comes naturally to me. As a pastor, a large part of how I organize my week relates to preparing for Sunday morning worship. Pre-pandemic I organized my work schedule in a way that when Sunday morning would come I would be ready to lead worship. This often meant preparing worship orders and writing messages on the weekdays and sometimes feeling called by the spirit to share a different message than the one I had prepared for Sunday morning. My time was marked and measured in a way that I felt worked best for me.
But this past year has led me to reshape my relationship with time.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we thought that maybe it would last a week or two. As pastors we thought we were going to be doing a livestream Facebook worship for a week or maybe two. After two weeks we shifted to a pre-recorded worship that premiered on Sunday mornings. This shifted my routine completely as we were worshipping together in 1 Sunday morning service instead of 7 and not only that but all worship elements had to be recorded by Wednesday. No longer was I getting up on Sunday mornings to be physically present without church community sharing in worship. I was getting up and heading to my living room to turn on my computer and participate in worship online. Singing hymns, hearing messages, and praying virtually with our church community as I chatted with people in the chat section of worship. Even then we were still in the mindset of this would be a temporary thing for a couple of weeks. Two weeks turned to three and then to a month. Now here we are 1 year into a pandemic and still looking to a future time when it will end.
This year has opened my heart into new ways of being present both in my personal and pastoral relationships. While I do miss being physically present with people and preaching in an empty room to a camera has come to feel normal I am grateful for the lessons I have learned. On Sunday mornings, I am able to relate to the worshiping community in a way that I wasn’t able to before. A pre-pandemic Sunday morning consisted of making sure sound systems were working, musicians and speakers having everything they needed, doors unlocked, and bulletins being handed out. Oh and did the altar candles get lit? All are important tasks to create a space of worship for those who are coming to physically be in worship. Now on Sunday mornings I take a deep breath to center myself for a time of worship knowing that all of the service is put together. I can log on to worship where I am able to place all my focus and energy into connecting with God and with all who have come to worship. Worshiping in this way has taught me how to be more deeply present with the worshiping community than I had experienced before.
Going forward I pray that I am able to take with me the lessons I have learned about how to manage my time and how to be more fully present.
Pastor Alyssa Baker