Hi folks. It’s been over a month since I posted anything here. I’m not sure if that’s ever happened before in the eleven-and-a-half years of this blog’s existence, but it certainly feels strange to me. There’s no grand reason for the silence other than the usual suspects. A bit of writers’ block, a dearth of inspiration, bit of generalized fatigue, a summer holiday followed by an immediate jump into the deep end of the pool in church ministry. It’s been a stretch of time where time and energy have seemed a bit thin and where the words seem harder in coming than usual.
There’s also this ongoing pandemic. Obviously. Like many, perhaps, I had naively hoped that September 2021 would feel more normal than September 2020. This has not turned out to be the case. In many ways, it feels worse. Last fall I remember feeling at least cautiously optimistic. This fall, it seems like we’re spinning our wheels or going in reverse or… something. The emotional intensity seems to have been ratcheted up a few notches. Everything is less certain and more polarized. People seem angrier and more exhausted. Everyone wants to talk, and few want to listen. Nobody knows what’s going on or when this will end. If last fall it felt like we were still kinda, sorta all pulling on the same rope in the same direction, this year it feels like the rope is frayed and being stretched in all kinds of different directions. And that it might snap.
I can’t think of a single person in any position of leadership in any institution right now who isn’t struggling. I’m sure there are blessed exceptions out there, but they are surely few and far between. There is decision-fatigue and uncertainty. There’s genuine fear about the Delta variant and how it might change the game. There’s an inability to plan beyond the next week or two. There’s the challenge of negotiating an at times wildly divergent set of opinions about how the institution should be addressing questions of masking, vaccination requirements, hygiene, distancing, etc. And all of this takes place—at least here in Alberta—in a political context where policies flip flop with bewildering regularity and where clear and coherent guidance often seems lacking. Oh, and there is (inexplicably) a federal election going on in the middle of all this. Which usually tends to bring people together in all kinds of warm and fuzzy ways. Err… A number of pastors and other leaders have whispered to me privately that they have had resignation letters half-written for over a year. It’s not hard to see why.
This was supposed to be a quick update on my relative silence here on the blog, but it has morphed into something of a convoluted plea for grace. Throughout this past year, we’ve heard innumerable saccharine exhortations to “be kind, be calm, be safe,” etc. I think this fine advice as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. Grace is a better word. It has theological weight and density. It holds more promise. It speaks of the choice to extend mercy and goodwill to our neighbours—even the idiots who don’t think like we do, even when we don’t want to, even when it would be far more satisfying and cathartic to mock and belittle them. Grace is among the basic requirements for negotiating anything resembling a shared life together in the context of real difference and competing goods.
To that end, I wish you grace during these early days of fall. You’ll need it and you’ll need to extend it. I hope to resume a more normal writing rhythm here shortly.
The title of this post comes from a song of the same name by The Tragically Hip. I chose it for no better reason than it was playing in my headphones when I was about to press “publish.” 🙂