Wednesday Word: There Are No Correct Answers
Every once in awhile I listen to a podcast. The time I choose to listen most often is usually when I'm putting in a longer time on my elliptical machine. One of those I listen to is called, “The Areopagus,” and is hosted by an Orthodox priest and Protestant pastor. The show's description says, “This podcast is about the encounter of historic Christianity with other religious traditions.” It's also long, most episodes are 1-1/2 hours, or longer, so it's perfect listening for those long days on the clothes rack.
In their most recent episode the hosts were talking about how churches in general, and their congregations in particular, were dealing with worship in the era of COVID. How do we as leaders and parishioners deal with things like neighboring churches being opened when ours isn't? Or one bishop authorizing limited in-person worship while another one hasn't (which is more of an issue in places close to diocesan boundaries)? How do we “do church” in a virtual setting? How do we maintain our faith community when we can't physically gather together? And many more questions that, I'm sure, we've all asked ourselves at one point or another.
At one point Fr. Andrew said, “I've learned that there are no correct answers.”
I think he's mostly right. Through all of this we – the broader 'we' of church, state, corporate, and home – have made decisions based on the best available information at the time. As we've seen, there are many different thoughts about how best to proceed. And I say he's “mostly right” because things like wearing masks, limiting the number of people in one gathering, washing hands, and other things along those line are clearly correct answers to dealing with our situation.
But he was talking more about the big picture of COVID in the life of the church. Do we live-stream? Do we prerecord? Do we not offer the Sacraments? Do we offer Sacraments in limited numbers? In other words, “How in the world do we do this??”
Each of us has some thought or idea about how to best “do this.” We may agree or disagree about those thoughts/ideas, and we may agree/disagree with the same person at different times. But we must all remember that there is no one correct answer sheet, so in that respect there are no correct answers.
Most of what I've seen and heard from people arguing against decisions made, or arguing for decisions not made, are done strictly from an individualistic point of view – how did that decision or non-decision affect me personally? The problem with that, though, is that we forget we are part of a larger community and most decisions made are made with an eye toward doing what is best for all, not just the one. Any leader will make incorrect decisions at times; and in this time of COVID, that incorrectness seems to happen more often.
We are all in different leadership positions – at home, at work, or in public. Please remember that there are no correct answers. But also remember that we are all doing the best we can with what we've got, so be gentle with each other.