Admittedly, the title of this article is pure clickbait. However, it also bears noteworthy substance in the mind of a sports junkie church music director with an ENTP (Myers Briggs) personality which has a penchant for drawing salient connections between disparate phenomenon, even entities as disparate as CUC and Muhammed Ali.

Please bear with me for a moment as I flesh out this unlikely analogy…

Many of us may know that the “Rope-a-Dope” concept is credited to internationally renowned boxer, Muhamad Ali. In his acclaimed 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match with heavyweight champion, George Foreman, Ali sought refuge against the ropes as he baited Foreman into doling out an onslaught of offensive, yet ineffective, punches. This punching deluge wore out the champion and opened the door for a fresh Ali to take over the match. The fight’s key highlights can be observed at the following.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8esK3soO3Q

I submit to you that Muhammed Ali’s innovative “Rope-a-Dope” boxing strategy is an exemplary example of survival. Additionally, I see two compelling parallels between the way that Ali survived Foreman and how CUC is surviving the COVID pandemic.

First, consider the inner strength Ali must have possessed in order to not only survive those offensive blows from the bigger, stronger heavy weight champion in George Foreman, but also to weather the collective dismay displayed by the massive group of onlookers both in the stadium and on television worldwide. Ali was on an island all on his own, however, he knew who he was, what he was capable of, and what he was about to do.

COVID has us on the ropes. Despite this, I am amazed at how, you, the congregants of CUC, have sustained active connection and togetherness with each other and have continued to support CUC with your presence, energy and financial gifts: all of this despite the significant reduction of live, in-person worship services and other customary church events and programming precipitated by the pandemic. All churches are feeling pandemic-induced pressures, however the ways that each church is surviving these pressures are vastly different. It is no secret that a significant number of local churches in our state and across the country have elected to conduct weekly, indoor services. One of the validations for these precarious worship services that I hear continually from church leaders that serve such churches is that they believe that church survival is unattainable without live, indoor, corporate worship held on the church premises. Without this specific type of gathering, they believe that attendance, membership, and giving will dissolve and die. CUC utterly defies these predictions. You have not forgotten who you are as a church, and you continue to resiliently live out your identity as a worshipping community even as the pandemic delivers blow after blow.

Secondly, as Ali was withstanding the devastating attacks of Foreman, what was he looking forward to? He was keeping his eyes fixed on the prize, on seeing that bigger, stronger, supremely fit champion with muscles popping out of his ears, start to wane and show signs of fatigue. Ali clung to this hope with confidence and resolve. As soon as he saw this opening, he pounced and capitalized. Because of your energy and support, you have equipped the staff of CUC to prepare and plan for the day that COVID begins to recede. We constantly discuss and dream of creative ways that we can both enrich CUC during the pandemic while also preparing for a rebirth and resetting of CUC post-pandemic. From the vantage point of our music ministry, I am so incredibly excited about the tangible steps that we are currently taking to produce the excellent and modernized music ministry that Steve and I dreamed of in my audition and interview, and which he hired me to bring about at CUC. As I have said constantly at staff meetings and collaborations with my colleagues, “A pandemic is a terrible thing to waste.” Thank you for positioning the CUC staff to capitalize on this unique time.

As Steve has told all of us repeatedly, both staff and congregation, “Tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO!” So let’s continue to “Muhammed Ali” this pandemic together! Writing about the outlandish connection between Muhammed Ali and CUC has me feeling like a boxer receiving an inspirational corner speech between rounds from a charismatic coach! LOL I’m pumped man…LET’S GO!!!

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