Resources Collected by the Commission on Thriving Congregations
On Monday the 16th, Governor Hogan announced what amounts to a shutdown of Maryland. Following the CDC’s advice, he’s effectively banned gatherings of 50 or more people stating that the full force of the law was behind this declaration not to get together. If people were talking about The Easter Problem before, there’s even more conversation about it now. How do we do Easter if we can’t meet together?
But perhaps there’s another question to ask – instead of “How do we do Easter” what about “How is Easter present in and for our churches at this moment?” After all, if we commit to this whole not-getting-together-in-person thing (which is how we love our neighbors as ourselves) then we probably need to rethink how we do church, at least for now. And maybe that means accepting the death of pieces of the church as we know it and looking for the new life that’s budding in their places. Our New Worshipping Communities (like Slate and Communidad) have been exploring this question since they formed. Leaders like TE Jenn DiFrancesco (The SLATE Project) and TE José Lopez (Communidad) have been working to reframe challenge as opportunity in their particular contexts. How can the rest of us follow their example?
Take the Question to Your Session and Other Leaders
Try asking them: how can this unprecedented time in the life of our church help us to find new life? Where might there be evidence of the power of the resurrection in our midst? What is the Easter story that we might be telling? What are the opportunities for us in this surreal moment? This is a great devotional topic for a session meeting or could launch visioning for the year ahead.
Shifting to a Culture of Lay Leadership
If your congregation has tended towards being pastor-centered, this might provide an opportunity to shift the culture to one of lay leadership. You’re already equipping and empowering leadership to help with the care that no one of us can provide on our own – why not provide them with other ways they might participate? What about asking for their help with a devotional in this season? Perhaps they’d like to host a small prayer group online, or start a book study, or simply write cards or check in on their fellow congregants.
Get Creative! Be Adaptive!
Sometimes it’s really hard to make changes within our congregational systems – homeostasis is what most systems want more than anything, after all. This unprecedented time in the life of our church may just provide the context within which we can experiment with things that are new and even adapt our church culture. Maybe the congregation has been resistant to being in relationship with one another outside of Sunday morning – this might be the moment when they’re willing to reach out to each other. Maybe the congregation has resisted investigating the way it worships to consider how God might be calling them to reform – this might be the time to have that conversation because nothing is normal!
Look for Support
While a lot of things have shut down, many Presbytery resources have not. Seek out a coach – the Commission on Spiritual Leader Development has scholarships to help out with that. Form a clergy group outside of the giant Facebook groups for more personal community. Work with The Center to think about the way that you might engage with your neighbors when you can’t get near them. Just don’t go it alone!