The theme of this past summer’s Synod Assembly was drawn from the words of Isaiah 43:19. “Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?’” I think that many of us, have perceived that God is doing something new with us and we welcome it!
A lot of us feel like some cobwebs have been blown off and that we don’t have quite so strong a whiff of mothballs hanging over us. Of course, the pandemic has identified some very significant challenges for us; but its also identified some new opportunities that many of us are inspired to engage.
In February of 2021, we invited congregations and rostered leaders to participate in a survey to help us assesses the impact of Covid-19 on congregational ministries. And according to your survey responses, you discern further change on the horizon; change that many of you welcome.
We asked you to identify “what elements of your congregation’s ministry you believe will change, post-pandemic vs. pre-pandemic.” This is some of what you told us.
With regard to “missional clarity” or “knowing what business you are in,” 53% anticipate experiencing some change and 12% predict extreme change. One of you wrote, “Post-pandemic realities will reinforce sense of urgency to sharpen missional energy.” Another wrote, “We’ve made of an effort to reach more people than we did before. We have more volunteers to connect with others via phone, personal deliveries. It’s been a huge learning curve to figure out that we can get out of our building and be the voice of Jesus.”
With regard to the provision of pastoral care, 60% see some change on the horizon and 15% expect to experience extreme change.
One of you reported that, “Pastoral care and pastoral interaction with members increased significantly throughout the pandemic and will likely continue in post pandemic.” Another wrote, “This time of pandemic has now guided us to use technology to its fullest. We plan to use these resources as well as the traditional means of pastoral care to reach out to people and allow for what is most helpful and needed. We also have now incorporated a “care-team” – a group of people reaching out and being there for their congregation and extended community as needed and helpful.”
And it seems that most of you anticipate that significant changes will continue to impact our worship life – 60% in some ways and 27% in extreme ways. One of you wrote, “The pandemic has opened up possibilities for us and has shifted the posture of the community. A more missional posture and multiple access points.” Many of you anticipate going into a hybrid worship model with both face to face and online worship, but have very real anxieties about how that can be done effectively.
I am gratified to see us become more courageous and generous in our support of emerging forms of ministry. Many of us are coming to realize that we can’t solely rely upon status quo models for ministry which, in many contexts, are unlikely to advance God’s mission in the ways that they once did. I applaud our church’s increased willingness to engage in experimentation, learn from the experience of others, and overcome our debilitating fear of failing.
During “covid-tide,” we have opened some windows and doors that we had long assumed were painted shut and immovable. That has proven to not be the case. I hope and pray we will withstand the temptation to shut them up again. I can feel the Spirit’s breeze blowing and it is oh so refreshing!