We have all been doing it this year. But if you are like me, it was not until your church, your organization or your fellowship group started to have “hybrid meetings” that you began to realize you were “hybridizing.”
The photo above is one that I took at the Jenkins Arboretum in nearby Devon, Pennsylvania. Jenkins is known for its impressive collections of hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas. The one above is a “Deciduous Azalea Rhododendron ‘Sweet Caroline,'” and the hybridizing was done by the Knuttel Nursery of East Windsor, Connecticut. I can name this flower only because a tag was hung on it by the Jenkins botanists (thank you, botanists!!). My ignorance of the world of cultivating flower hybrids is vast. For me, it is enough to appreciate the beauty they create, and to try to preserve some of it with photographs.
Though I understand very little about hybridizing plants, my year of global service has been chock-full of hybridized teaching. I am not yet as good at it as I would like to be, but finding ways to combine face-to-face and online presence has been a crucial part of the slow process of emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. The contagion rages on, and people continue to die. But much has been learned about preventive measures, there are now many different vaccines–especially varied in the world outside the U.S.!–with multiple boosters, and even some helpful treatments. (It seemed quite natural, last month, to get my most recent COVID booster and my annual flu shot together [yes, it worked fine for me–for which I am grateful!].) So, across the U.S. and around the world, we are discovering ways to keep one another safe, while re-engaging in the kind of social contact that has long been at the heart of human life.
So, I have taught online courses and preached online sermons… while also traveling to Asia, the Caribbean, Central America and Africa for face-to-face teaching and preaching engagements. Sometimes, a single course or a single series of meetings will have both online and face-to-face components… and sometimes we have tried that most difficult of combinations, face-to-face and remote participants in the same session at the same time.
Working with pastors and students around the world, we are finding our way. In this, we are both heirs to, and carriers of, a long and amazingly diverse tradition of finding ways to bear witness to the love of God in Christ, in the face of ever-changing opportunities and challenges.
Thank you for your support of the World Mission Offering this year! God continues to do new things in mission, inspiring the hybridizing efforts of faithful followers of Jesus from all nations. I am grateful to be a part of just a few of these new things–and to pray for, give to and cheer on many, many others!
May the Lord bless you as you find creative ways to adapt to your own part of our changing world!