Like most of you, I have spent the past week deep in zoom and facetime calls, working with my peers to figure out a way forward, a way to navigate this unprecedented and uncertain time. We are all navigating these unsteady and shaky steps, doing the best we can with what we have. And, as many of you can attest, the church has been trying to sort this out as well, on a local and larger scale. How do we do ministry when we cannot gather, when we cannot pass the peace to our neighbor and hold their hand, hug them, or look them in the eye? What is community and church in the age of pandemic? 

       Holy Week planning with other UKirk Ministers

I don’t have the answer to these questions, but honestly I am really grateful that we are asking them. Because we need these questions. We need this time. This moment in time feels like a great stretching, where we are being called to expand our capacity in just about every avenue. Our capacity for patience, love, connection, rest, and yes, even with God. Because, in some cases, the God we inherited has become very small, and confined in church buildings. Right now we are beginning to see the vast unending stretch of God that moves past those walls and into places we never expected. We have begun to look for God not just in one hour a week, but in every moment and in the unexpected. We have begun to stretch and see God in our neighbors, not only here in Knoxville but also across the world in Italy, China, and Iran. In all this, my hope, my prayer, is that when we reach the next chapter of this narrative, we will not go back to “business as usual”, we will not continue to believe that God is so small that God only takes care of our people and our continent and not the whole world.

This is a time of great stretching in our faith, where normal no longer exists and all we can experience is the extraordinary movement of God in our every day lives, in our computer screens, growing gardens, Netflix marathons, and in all the places of our world, if we are willing to pay attention. 
Yes, this time is unprecedented, scary, and uncertain. And yet, grace continues to move and remind us of our connected nature, and of who we are.
So what if we took these next steps as people willing to stretch, seeking to experiencing a God that expands us beyond ourselves, but also stretches our understanding of church, community, and the body of Christ? How might we go about this? What would it mean for us in the future? How would it help us love our neighbors better? How would it help us love ourselves? 
I don’t have the answers to these…but i’m excited to see what we find.
Rev. Rachel Penmore
Campus Minister