This fall will be full of muffled sounds. The voices of our students will be muffled by the masks they wear. Teachers in face shields will project even more than usual to get their points across. Socially distant lunchtimes may prove themselves to be more quiet—or possibly louder! Professional development and faculty meetings via Zoom where administrators and teachers remain on mute only until ready and allowed to speak may continue as the norm for a while. Staff, faculty, and students returning to campuses nationwide will be separated by glass shields and assigned seating. Our class time, work time, and downtime will continue to look different.
What Helps Us Stay Grounded
The beginning of the school year brings not only excitement but a small reminder of normalcy. Is it the “normal” that we crave? Absolutely not, but in most states, plans have been made so that it is the “normal” that we get. There is, however, one aspect of our lives that has remained just as normal as can be, even as we have navigated through a series of national crises this summer.
I was reminded this past Sunday of what helps us stay grounded and of the one who has remained “normal” as my pastor had our congregation reflect on how life is lived differently when we move through it with Jesus at the center. It was especially useful for our congregation in Brooklyn, where many come from a Caribbean background. Living life with Jesus in the center, or Jesus in the middle as a focal point, helps us to reorient ourselves. This works whether we are migrating from home countries long left behind to begin life anew in the US, or if we are moving forward in the year, recreating what our regular routines used to be. In a transient city or in the transient life, having Jesus at the center gives clarity, normalcy, and grounding.
Look to Hymns
We have a rich hymnody that reminds us of Jesus’ promise to be with us always, and as we sing this reality, it is a statement of faith and fact rather than an imploring of God to do something. This fall, be encouraged to sing the songs of God’s love and sustainability when faced with changing times. Times will change and new rules will come forth, but our God remains the same.
Jesus Is Our Normal
Jesus is unchanging. He has promised to be with us to the very end of the age. He remains faithful when we are faithless. In these times, it remains tempting and easy to default to faithlessness—not in the soteriological sense, but rather having faithlessness in the future, for example, of what interactions will look like. Faithlessness in the systems we have established to lead us to and through visceral issues in our country. Faithlessness in our economic power to bounce back. Faithlessness in our strained relationships and hunger for normalcy. But God remains faithful. Jesus remains blissfully, joyfully normal. He gives us His same self that has always been there for us, that was promised to us in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19–20: “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Give Students the Normal of Jesus
Leadership in our schools—this fall, in particular—will require administrators, faculty, and staff alike to trust in the Lord rather than leaning on our own understanding as outlined in Proverbs 3:5. As those who walk with Jesus, in a world muffled with mess, we are called to be bold and loving. Understanding what comes next is difficult because we are living in unprecedented times. This has been said so much that it has become the chorus of a song that most of us would like to skip. The reality is that we indeed are here, and still school goes on.
School this year will not be what we have remembered from times past. Parents and students in the communities we serve need normal. This fall, give them normal! Give them Jesus. Show them who He is over and again. Our world is ever-changing. We may return to school and be sent right back home as outbreaks happen. There is no way to control this. But we have a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It may be an excellent use of time to develop chapels, in-class devotions, and after-school prayers centered around Jesus, our focal point. Teachers, pray for your principals and heads of school. Administrators, pray for your boards. Parents, pray for your children’s teachers. Staff, pray for faculty. Faculty, pray for staff. Students, pray for your communities. May we be covered in prayer and bathed in our Baptisms as we continue to seek normal.
This fall (and always) families are looking to uphold higher standards of healthy living.