People thrive and grow in trusted and mutual relationships, which are essential during these difficult times. An example of these solid relationships involved my fellowship with Oxford Circle Mennonite Church (OCMC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the first Sunday of August — their first Sunday back in person after pandemic protocols loosened. OCMC is a diverse church, consisting of members from many different racial and ethnic backgrounds, including interracial families made up of Hispanic, African American, European and Black-Hispanic people. (To learn more, visit their website.)
Pastor Lynn Parks, with worship leaders from Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, began worship with 15 minutes of prayer prior to the service. I was happy to join them in prayer this particular Sunday; it was a first return for several members. They expressed their gratitude for being able to meet in person after a year of separation due to the pandemic. During this prayer, they sought to bond again by looking at each other with "soft eyes" (viewing others through an unbiased lens). Separated by six feet of social distancing, Parks suggested they pay attention to needs of each other and also the community.