The Year of the Big Wait: Bruce Barnard

This month’s post was written by esteemed NazToo member, Bruce Barnard. Bruce is a pastor, adjunct professor, doctoral student at George Fox Seminary, and currently President/CEO of the Manhattan Initiative as well as Chief Operations and Financial Officer for the Metro New York District Church of the Nazarene. Bruce’s calling is to speak for the disenfranchised, the societal outcasts and those whose lives have been marginalized by mainstream Christianity. He’s a pastor, husband, dad, son, brother, student, and friend to many. Bruce and his wife Amy lead Nazarene church planting in Manhattan and have their own house church. This has been a challenging year for them as NYC was ground zero of the global pandemic, working remotely, and the loss of Bruce’s mom. In the midst of that, he’s still giving THANKS and WAITING!

“Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write. We wait for a ‘not yet’ that feels like a ‘not ever.’” Lewis Smedes

TLDR: 2020 is the Year of the Big Wait

2020 feels a bit like we’ve just been waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

  • We’ve been waiting on a virus we couldn’t see. . .
  • We’ve been waiting on a return to normalcy that won’t feel normal. . .
  • We’ve been waiting on a US election that has the potential to change the world. . .
  • We’re still waiting on a vaccine for a virus that we believe will be a game changer. . .

For many of us, we’ve been waiting as well to hug someone, to hold hands, to bump fists, to kiss, to feel the touch of a loved one that is far away. For some of us we’ve been waiting on celebrating a marriage or memorializing a death. Nothing, literally nothing, in 2020 has looked like we thought it would, nor as we hoped it might. 

So too we enter Advent.

I’m not sure what I thought Advent might be like this year. I know for a fact on March 13th, my last in-person day at my office (the Metro NY District Church of the Nazarene) I warned our staff, “Let’s be prepared for this to last a few weeks, maybe a month. In fact, take what you need to be able to work from home for a month or two!” Those were my encouraging words, and I totally believed them.

As the days turned to weeks, and weeks to months, and now months to almost a full year, it’s clear we misjudged the pandemic before us. And as money ran out, and as bills piled up, and as food became scarce and we spent hours waiting in lines, our patience for waiting ran out.

Then, November 3rd in America. With a global audience tuned in, our country went to the polls (well, about 45% of the country). We watched and read and listened all day to exit polling, then we watched and waited all evening, and then we moved into November 4th still waiting. It would be two full weeks before some media outlets would “call the election” and even longer as some states counted and recounted and re-canvassed their ballots. And now, December 1, we are still waiting for the electoral college vote on December 14th. (I realize here that I’m writing from a US-centric perspective but that’s my current context).

I don’t know your context, but I’m tired of waiting. And yet here I am, entering Advent, being told by church history to do just that – WAIT. ANTICIPATE, but WAIT. And how does that bring me to NazToo?

NazToo seems to be made up of a large group of friends who have spent the better part of their adult lives waiting – waiting to be accepted, waiting to be encircled with love, waiting to find answers to questions of their lives, waiting to find love, waiting to discard baggage, waiting to be included, waiting on a church to believe in them. And to most of you, I have no clue what that feels like. But I know you have found a safe harbor here in this group. And for that I’m eternally grateful to the creators. And so this year, as 2020 comes to a close, to those of you still waiting, I offer this transition from THANKSGIVING to WAITING:

To those called friend — for you, for your commitment to live openly and honestly and transparently, for your love of those labeled “outsider,” for your willingness to dialogue across difference, for your passion to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, as this season of THANKS draws to a close and a season of WAITING begins, I give thanks to the Lord for you. . .