The summer of 2020 will long be remembered as the summer that wasn’t. The adventures of camp and travel were replaced with small backyard gatherings. Summer festivals and celebrations in the park were replaced with online events and Netflix binge-watching sessions. Block parties were replaced with drive-by celebrations. And the familiar question coming from the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?” was now being asked by those in the front seats, as well. It’s clear that wherever we may have been going, we were not going back to normal.

Over these past months, we have watched our world, our communities, our families and The Salvation Army respond to the new realities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. We reacted quickly to the changing dynamics that were suddenly thrust upon us as governments and public health offices put response measures in place. As it became evident that this pandemic would not pass quickly, we began to pivot and alter our approaches as we settled into what was becoming a new normal.

Living in a COVID-19 world has now shifted from a few weeks of interruption, to a season of disruption, to perhaps even a long-term reality—a new mini-era some suggest. The COVID-19 pandemic has also initiated political and economic dynamics that are affecting many lives and organizations.

In considering the response required of organizations, Dave Blanchard, co-founder of Praxis, a creative engine for redemptive entrepreneurship, notes that we are called to set aside our current “playbook” and write a new one that honours our mission and the communities we serve, making the most of our assets—our people, financial and social capital—and leaning on relationship and trust. There are questions that every organization, including our movement, must regularly review: Who are we? Whom do we serve? Why do we serve them? What do we do? How do we do it?

The international vision statement of The Salvation Army addresses the first four questions: “We see a God-raised, Spirit-filled Army for the 21st century convinced of our calling, moving forward together into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means with the transforming message of Jesus, bringing freedom, hope and life.”

In these days, the question that demands our attention is, “How we do it?” This is the time to seize the opportunity and responsibility to build a new playbook, one that reflects the realities of the communities in which we live and serve, and the tools now available to us. The potential for vision and hope is greater than we have known in recent decades.

It must be understood, however, that we also need to make space for grief and lament. Many are experiencing a sense of loss. The Christian faith recognizes that grief and loss go together with vision and hope, as they are the story of the cross and the Resurrection.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a window has been opened that has allowed the deep pain of racism and injustice to be expressed across the global community. Laments cry out from neighbourhood after neighbourhood. Out of the loss and grief can arise the creative potential of hope and vision. We do not grieve without hope. We know the hope of the Resurrection that followed the grief and pain of Calvary. We claim the promise that Jesus would send to his followers the Comforter. God will not leave his people alone but has sent his Comforter who will guide us into all truth. For the choices to be made and the actions to be taken, he will guide and empower us.

May this be remembered as the season when we, in bold faith, embraced the God-given international vision for The Salvation Army and created the much-needed new playbook for the present and the emerging future. We may not be able to answer the question from the back seat of the car yet, but I invite you to commit to working together to write and live out the new playbook. As a God-raised, Spirit-filled movement, created to fulfil his mission, let us ask and answer the questions, “How do we do it? How will I do it?”

Commissioner Floyd Tidd is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.

Illustration: sesame/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

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