I’ve been present as several people have come back to campus for the first time. Usually, people slow their pace and take time to really look around. Most people at that point begin to tear up. Not being together in person in this beloved place with this beloved community for so long has been really hard, and when we first return we really feel the impact. And then we find out about change after change that’s been made. Distancing, waiting, shortages, changed schedules, new ways of doing familiar things—so many things large and small are different now.

Multiply that experience by every loved place you haven’t been this past 15 months and everyone you haven’t seen. That’s a lot of impact, a lot of feelings. I imagine that for children who are returning in person to school, dojo, scouts, grandparents, RE, Chalice Singers, the Sanctuary, this experience might loom even larger and have an even greater impact. No wonder so many of us are feeling anxious and edgy. No wonder conflicts are flaring up with greater regularity all over the place.

If you’re involved in leading an organization, you’re aware that reopening isn’t so much like flipping on a power switch and walking into business as usual. It’s more like dialing the power up gradually and entering thoughtfully to discover change, after change, after change. What’s most important in all this is not so much getting things done. It’s making time to connect with other people.

One thing to keep in mind is that while ERUUF feels like home, it’s actually a public space and all together we are a whole lot of people with widely varying needs. Some of us are desperate for a hug, and others have to maintain 6’ of distance for their health and safety because they’re unable to be vaccinated due to their immune system. For them, the pandemic is far from over (and who could possibly need community more than someone in that situation?). We strive to be a community of respect and care, and we can demonstrate this by remembering to ask others if they’re open to a hug before just moving in close. And please note, the ministers and staff love you, but we have decided that it’s just too risky for us to hug and shake hands with everyone. We will connect with you sincerely from a careful distance.

After a year of working alone and at our own pace, reentering is going to take some adjustment. We need to take the time to look around, remember, take it all in with fresh eyes. And feel whatever comes up, and if that’s tears then we let them fall. When we pay attention like this we might not be so efficient or productive. But we’ll have our priorities in the right order. And with that alignment, our full power will be ready to be harvested and used for the common good. See you in August after I’ve been to General Assembly and have taken some further time to recharge.