What will phasing into worship and life as a community of faith be like for you?

One more time: take a deep breath.  Let it go.  Notice where God is present to you in this moment.  Remember the love that God has for you. 

Do that again…and again…and again.

Following the guidance of health care professionals, your Bridge Conference Ministers have asked that you suspend in person worship through at least May 31.   At the same time there are increasing conversations and guidelines all around us about when and how to “reopen”.  Back in the first days of Stay Safe Stay Home many folks imagined a few weeks of this before they could “get back together again”.  You, like me, may have imagined one particular date when it would all be over.  We know better now.  It won’t be a day.  It will be a series of phases. 

So I have 2 sets of 4 questions for ministry leaders to consider.  And a set of resources to help with the answers.  I was in a coaching session this week when my coach, Claire Bamberg, reminded me of a set of questions.   Look ahead to one month after we begin the first phase: 
  1. What will you want to observe and experience in the physical health of your congregation and community members as a result of your decisions?  There are up to 2 weeks from the time of exposure to the development of Covid symptoms. Then it takes up to 2 weeks for mild symptoms to resolve (and much longer for more severe symptoms).
  2. What will you want to observe and experience in the spiritual health of your congregation and community as a result of your decisions?  We have lived within a different way of being for the last 2 months. That will continue into the months to come. Such shifts in our lives always connect to life with God. From worship to prayer to faith formation you are, and will be, ministering to this in a variety of ways.
  3. What will you want to observe and experience in the emotional health of your congregation and community as a result of your decisions?  Disruptive and liminal times evoke a full range of emotions and settle deeply into our souls.  And at the same time they can be exhausting and overwhelming. 
  4. What will you want to observe and experience in the strategic health of your congregation and community as a result of your decisions?  This situation constantly changes.  Even as we phase into the new territory.  There are both technical and adaptive challenges.  
Now go back to those same four questions and shift the question from “What will you…” to What will God…” 

Our SNEUCC website has a new section of Phasing Forward.  It includes our Mid Pandemic Checklist and a growing number of links to guidance and resources.  Please check it out for insight.

You all know that this pandemic will last more than that first month.  We know that the short term decisions will have long term consequences.  We also know there are long term decisions we are facing.  And this time has provided us with an extraordinary amount of insights.  It helps us fine tune our WHY (our core values, identity and purpose) that shape the Vision of the impact we will have within our congregation and our communities. 

It helps us discover what is most essential.

In times such as these, as people consider the past and the future there are 4 classical questions that help us discover those essentials and carry them forward.
  1. What can we let go of?   There are things we thought were necessary only to discover we could survive and thrive without them.  We may even have discovered some were more limiting to us than we knew.   And more than a few of those may have become entrenched in unhelpful layers of cultural norms. 
  2. What is essential to bring with us?  We are the bearers of the wisdom of those who have traveled with God before us. They have passed along to us, from their perspective, their understanding of God and communities of faith.  But remember, God always calls us to travel light?
  3. What needs to come with us, but must be transformed first?  There are some things we can’t bring with us as they are.  We may need to peel off layers to discover the treasure within.  But we are learning ways to adapt or revise them, or at least their most critical elements. 
  4. What new things do we need to learn, discover and develop?  New territories call for new tools, new approaches and new vision.  God is always calling us more deeply into the realm of love and justice. 
So, one last perspective.  For the last few decades we have seen how many folks, particularly each new generation, have a deep spiritual longing and life and yet are not turning to the church.  They tell us that, if they think about the church at all, they consider it irrelevant, insular and ineffective.  In this pandemic time, particularly with physical distancing, the longing for authentic community, meaningful connections to the holy and good ways to make a difference is acute. Looking back over the questions shared here, how might you think these folks might hope we would answer them.   

And we need you!  As you discover and develop approaches, please pass them along to us.  We are in this together.  I know that there are many faithful ways to move through and, one day, beyond this pandemic. We need each other’s insight and revelations as we travel together.   

Friends, I know this is such a challenging time for you as church leaders.  I know you are doing exhausting and amazing work, the best that you can, to adapt to this moment. 

Thank you!   My prayers and hope and faith are with you.  You are not alone.


Don H. Remick

Don Remick is Bridge Conference Minister.

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