What time is it?

January 27, 2022 by Christine Chakoian

Every year, many of us reflect on the past, and commit to make resolutions for the future. Frequently, those resolutions involved better stewardship … of our time, our health, our finances, our family commitments, our spiritual growth.

This year (like last!) feels much different. On the downside, it feels like there is precious little we have control over. The rollercoaster ride of COVID’s rise and fall and rise again has left many of us feeling disheartened and passive: why bother making plans when they can change in a heartbeat? On the upside, we are by necessity more agile and adaptive!

Never before have the words of Ecclesiastes 3 been more meaningful to me:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

     2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
     3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
     4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
     5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
     6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
    7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
     8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. …

10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11He has made everything suitable for its time …

The question all of us face is this: what is suitable for this time? It is true for our personal lives, and for our parishes as well. On a very basic level, we wrestle with myriad COVID-related questions, like – is it time to worship and hold meetings in person … to provide hybrid options … to do on-line only? Is it time to ask for proof of vaccination … to require testing … to provide KN95 masks? Is it time to postpone (again) the choir returning, the Family Retreat, New Member classes … or do we give up and cancel them for months to come?

Yet all of that has pressed us to examine even more of what we used to take for granted. What used to be “usual and customary,” whether sacred worship traditions or budgeting and repairs, isn’t obvious. And perhaps, ironically, that is a gift. Questions we could not dare to ask have space now. Is it time to face the truth of our shrinking membership – to move from two services to one … to reduce our staff … to sell our building … to merge with another church, or close altogether? Is it time to recalibrate our programs – to set down the expectation of Lenten studies … to merge Sunday School classes … to let go of retreats? Is it time to question how we do mission – to let go of short-term mission trips … to embrace new mission partners … to seek to know our neighbors?

These are not easy questions. But surely now is the time to ask this of God: What do you desire of us for this season? For God has made everything suitable for its time.

Rev. Dr. Christine (Chris) Chakoian serves as Pastor and Head of Staff of Westwood Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. She has served in this position since August 2019. She is called to lead the congregation in the ways of Christ. She previously served at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary as Vice President for Seminary Advancement. Her previous calls include Pastor/Head of Staff at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, IL, and Community Presbyterian Church in Clarendon Hills, IL, as well as Associate Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portland, OR, Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, and Overbrook Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio. She is married to John Shustitzky, Director of the Doctoral program in Applied Clinical Psychology at the L.A. campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Their daughter and son-in-law, Anna and Spencer Sohn, live in Albuquerque.