Very few people alive today can remember a year like 2020. And most (if not all) of us who have lived through this year sincerely hope we won’t experience a year just like this one ever again.
Mostly it’s been the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus, of course, and the often deadly COVID-19 sickness it causes. But layered on top of that was a racial reckoning brought about through some truly awful examples of the deaths of black people at the hands of the police. And layered on top of that was a fiercely fought presidential election in the U.S.
Interleaving through all of that were things few could have predicted. How did it happen that a sizable part of the population came to doubt the pandemic was even real? Where in the name of all that is holy did the idea of a “Plandemic” come from? Early in the crisis columnist David Brooks incredulously asked, “What? Is cancer going to become a political issue now too?” And then there was the whole business about wearing masks. And cries for individual liberty not to be crimped by (prudent) government lockdowns and restrictions.
And as if all of that were not enough, so much of this ran straight down the center aisles of congregations. Cries went up that the church was being persecuted by quarantine orders. Few can remember a time when pastors endured such agony at the hands of their own sheep. Few can remember a time when once charitable pewmates suddenly found themselves completely at odds over holding in-person worship or not, requiring masks or not, social distancing or not, singing or not. “Faith vs. Fear” became a motto for some and a heretical byword to others.
In the midst of that, wrenching theological questions were being asked as to why God would allow this. Did God send this? Is there a divine message to be discerned? Can we hold the Lord’s Supper via Zoom or Facebook Live? What does the future of the church look like? Will people come back to church physically once they can safely do so again or will worshiping at home in pajamas with a cup of coffee in hand continue to sound like a nice option to some?
Those of you who are familiar with the history of The Reformed Journal know that it was precisely at moments of national and international tragedy and difficulty that the writers for RJ shined as brightly as ever. The assassinations of the 1960s (JKF, MLK, RFK), the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, the rise of the Christian Right and the Moral Majority: into such fraught moments the RJ tried to speak sensible and biblical words grounded in the best of Reformed theology.
In 2020 RJ and its blog here at The Twelve have tried to do that. I have tried to do that, not always successfully and often not without some sharp elbows thrown my way in the Comments section. Some of those critiques were correct, though, and not a few of them have made me try to be more thoughtful and nuanced and less prone to paint with a too-wide brush. But that is the kind of discussion and give-and-take the church needs to find its way forward.
We’re an all-volunteer crew here at The Twelve but it still takes some money to keep the lights on and the website respectable.
And we have some new ideas we would love to pursue in 2021. I have been so heartened this year to run into masked friends at the grocery store or to receive emails or private Facebook messages saying how much they appreciate The Twelve and how seeing someone give voice to their own thoughts has been downright uplifting spiritually. “Please don’t stop” not a few people have conveyed to me.
We are glad for that kind of feedback and would ask you to consider a financial gift to help us continue doing this important work of heart, soul, and mind.
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