I have a friend who regularly posts on social media all kinds of memes that are critical of politicians, especially politicians of a certain stripe. Most of the time I just ignore those posts since arguing seldom changes opinions. I have also found I tend to be more supportive of politicians of another stripe. That is not to say I don’t criticize politicians. I just try criticize the policy or action and not make the criticism personal. The truth is over the years my views have changed as I have experienced more and learned more. Generally, I find that even when I disagree with him or her, I discover that a politician is still a person who is trying within the limits of their authority and responsibilities to do what is best for the people they have been elected to represent.

I’ve also learned over the years how important it is to have qualified individuals doing jobs. Once upon a time, I worked for a carpenter and plumber. I can and do make repairs based on what I learned way back then. But even though I dream of building a house, you wouldn’t want me to build that house for you. You and I would be better off paying for a person who has the skills and knowledge to do those jobs. In a similar fashion, while the brain uses electricity to communicate with the rest of the body, I wouldn’t want an electrician working on my brain.

Which brings us to 2020. It has been a tough year. We have dealt with things most of us never thought were possible. The politics and the pandemic have escalated the tensions around many issues we face. We haven’t liked the shutdowns, the face masks and the separations. We miss getting together for the Windsurfing Regatta, International Festival, Fourth of July, Turkey Day, Christmas Parade, concerts, block parties, and countless other larger or smaller gatherings. And frankly, more than a few of us have been defiant about following the recommendations. I think it is safe to say we all look forward to 2021 without all the restrictions the COVID-19 pandemic place on us.

The same can be said about your pastors and our congregations. Like so many of the other activities in our community, we have had to adapt to the changing circumstances. As churches and pastors, we have followed different paths forward. Each of our church boards have tried, just like the politicians, to find a path forward that best serves the needs of the members and our community. Sometimes it has been difficult, and the choices haven’t pleased everyone. We have all discovered that church in 2021 will not be the same as church was at the beginning of 2020. While our gatherings for worship are essential, we realize the form of the gathering isn’t a “one size fits all” type of thing. Whether it is in person, in a parking lot or online, we gather in the presence of the God of creation. We gather to praise the God of love who came to dwell among us. We gather remembering the God who has claimed us and sends us to tell the good news of grace, mercy and new life God gives through Jesus Christ.

As each of you enters 2021, I invite you to take the opportunity to be in conversation with the politicians who have been elected. Share your views with them, but also listen to them. Then I encourage you to pray for them and our country. I also encourage you to pay attention to the voices of those who have the skills and talents we may lack. Finally, may you encounter the God of grace, hope, and love, that your life may be filled with joy.

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Galen Smith is pastor at Worthington's Westminster Presbyterian Church.