I love the expression “a gracious plenty.” It’s an idiom that means “a generous amount” or “an elegant sufficiency.”
Used to describe a robust Thanksgiving meal or more than enough resources to engage, it’s a positive description. (“My garden yielded a gracious plenty of spring flowers.”)
It’s not an expression to describe the massive amount of shifts, changes, adaptations, new learning, juggling of responsibilities and persistent thoughts that play like a program running in the background, draining our batteries, leaving us overwhelmed and bone tired. That’s a lot. No one I know ever said, “That’s a gracious plenty of challenge in the face of Covid-19.”
Now we find ourselves thinking and praying about returning to the church buildings. The recommendations of scientists, public health experts and national associations indicate that returning brings with it a lot of decisions and additional work. Some will not be returning right away when the doors re-open, due to compromised immune systems or fragile health. We’ll want to provide for their worshipping needs. Some are choosing a “soft” re-entry, with just a few folks in the building at first. Some are planning for their initial services on campus to be held outdoors. Still others will be continuing to offer worship services online. That’s a lot, but it’s not a gracious plenty.
I hope all pastors and other church leaders are drawing the circle wider on all of this. I hope you are consulting a variety of sources, including our presbytery website. There are so many resources, including re-entry guidelines, online worship support, free hymns, audio/visual/tech solutions, mental health first aid, financial forecasting materials, and so much more, all at www.ourpresbytery.org. Maybe you’d say it was a gracious plenty.
The presbytery is offering congregations with limited technology modest grants assistance to get online for worship and to accept online donations. We also offer help in applying for available grants and loans. We can put you in touch with colleagues and peers who can assist you with a variety of questions. We can help you take a Sunday or a week off, because everyone needs a break. We can point you toward creative solutions for continuing education, retreats and spiritual direction. What did I tell you? A gracious plenty.
I hope when we gat back together again and can visit (with or without masks), we will look back on this season and remember it as one of collaboration, creativity, support and partnership. With God’s help, a season of grief and loss may turn out to be a reminder of the abundant love of God, who created us for life in community.