Inside Out Church

When I was in middle and high school, I loved spirit days. On these days, we were supposed to dress up in themed clothing for the day. I think the point was to support the football team, but I didn’t think too much about that. As a naturally goofy person, I love any excuse to dress silly.

I remember we often had Inside Out Day. On that day, you were supposed to wear your clothes inside out. I participated with glee, and I remember sitting in class, marveling at how different my clothes looked when I was wearing them inside out. No matter how worn they actually were, when I turned my clothes inside out they had a newness about them. They were bright and fresh and new.

As we are continuing in a time of COVID, I keep thinking about those inside out spirit days. For me, ministry in this time of COVID has been like wearing my same clothes inside out. Church has always been a part of my life. I’m used to the structures and fit of what worship in a sanctuary looks like. I know how to fit in a Sunday school class. Church activities have always had a certain rhythm to me, and over the years, the Methodist Church as began to feel like my favorite jeans. But as comfortable as the fit was, this pandemic has forced our ministries to creatively turn the church inside out. Even the pieces of church that are familiar to me have a newness and energy to them.

As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic is not a fashion statement. It is a real crisis around the world. I have been so proud to be part of the staff at a church that takes safety seriously. I am so proud to be part of a team that considers every piece of worship worthy of attention and intention. However, lots of us seem to be holding our breaths. I hear from many people that they can’t wait to return to “normal.” These people seem to be holding their collective breath until COVID is over. They seem to anticipate everything will return to the way it once was. These people are missing the new energy that has been created by turning the church inside out.

To me, this COVID-19 pandemic has offered us an exciting and rare invitation to turn the church inside out and look at things in a new and exciting way. Instead of people going to church, the church is going to them. From drive through donations and foodbanks organized by Mission Central to communion in the courtyard, we are turning the church inside out. Instead of scheduling meetings where I meet church members at the office, I am going out and meeting in people’s yards, on patios, or in driveways. Instead of offering beloved members hugs, we have a set of hearts that is travelling around to yards across the congregation.

In older adult discipleship, we have Sunday school classes that are calling members regularly. Many of our groups are meeting over Zoom. There’s an entire team making phone calls every week to check in on those who are disconnected. Another team is sending birthday cards. Another team is brainstorming new ministry ideas.

All of this inside-out ministry reminds me of the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In this time of COVID-19, I am proud to be part of a church that is living out this gospel message. Jesus tells us to “go” and we are going! We are turning the familiar garment of church inside out to find fresh new ways to do ministry. Thanks be to God.

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