Most churches are trying to do a lot of new things these days.
I applaud it.
There is nothing like a crisis to bring out the best of our faithfulness and ingenuity; even if it stretches what we are used to or where we normally feel comfortable.
If you go online at all, you have probably seen some experiments go well while others fall flat. Rather than get frustrated or beleaguered by how savvy we are (or aren’t) I invite you to celebrate that we are all trying and learning… together!
A colleague of mine, Rev. Paul Kramptiz (Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Cromwell, CT) expressed what the church is going through in this crisis like this: “it is like flying a plane while you figure out how to build it.”
I find that is exactly how it feels!
Whatever and wherever you see churches doing or trying – lend some encouragement! Tell those communities and their leaders to keep at it and thank them for trying. Cut yourself some slack as well. We are all learning. You don’t have to be a master at every technology or platform in order to make connections. Just remember the Orville brothers started flying across a field – we don’t need to be making transcontinental flights yet, and we are not all going to figure out what works best for us the same way. These days (now weeks) at home have taught me once again – it doesn’t matter exactly “how” we make those connections -it is in the striving and learning and doing it together that matters.
Tammie and I have had as much success reaching out to folks by making photocopies and notes putting them in the U.S. Mail as we have had using Zoom and YouTube. WHY? It connects people. A post on Facebook or Twitter, an email or text or even a good old fashioned phone call (remember those?) are ways of having conversations, making connections and building relationships. Getting a hand drawn picture by a child in the mail…well that is just priceless!
There are many ways to connect. What is working for you? What could you use help learning? What could you help show others?
Seeing people around the world sing from balconies in unison (and sometimes harmony!) dance from sidewalks or record music independently miles away from one another to build a single composition have all been really inspiring ways of bringing people together. Watching our health care workers serve in challenging conditions for hours on end at great risk to themselves is not about the masks or ventilators is it? What we see in them is the power of courage, the selflessness of calling, and the persistence of their humanity shining through.
Let us be clear – none of us want to be in this situation; and that people are sick and dying around us while others are losing their work and incomes will require much of the rest of us in these days and weeks to come. Yet in the midst of this turmoil – what can we learn? I hope it is the connectedness we all share.
One of the things I have witnessed during this “stay home” period is people within our congregation are connecting with each other on their own – with some encouragement and structure through our care groups for sure. but also by their own initiative. I can’t applaud that enough. We are church when we are connecting – and we (like so many others) are discovering new ways to be together.
I found it very encouraging to meet with our council via Zoom on Monday night; and, as always we had some important business to do. Yet what I found to be extraordinary was how wonderful it felt to see each other’s faces and hear each other’s stories…our stories…of our people connecting through care groups but also in many other ways. I also found a great sense of peace knowing that some people in our congregation we have not heard from in a while were also connecting, sharing and feeling encouraged. Great job church! As I have said of St. Paul for some time now (long before this pandemic) – “we have a lot of great people doing lots of great stuff” – and that sentiment continues to be affirmed again and again and proven through your ongoing efforts. I thank you for the love of God that shines through you so brightly.
I am hopeful that something all of our communities of faith can learn from this experience is to claim again what is important – it is not our worship styles or time-slots or programming or distinct theological lenses or heritage that matters most – it is how we connect with people. Connecting helps us share hope and joy into the dread and heaviness we all see and carry with us these days.
It is encouraging in the age of “social distancing” and “stay at home” orders to experience the innovative ways people have come together as one voice, one song, one dance, one planet. If our shared togetherness is the lesson we learn from this horrible pandemic and unfortunate loss of life – then we would have reclaimed our shared humanity – and in the distracted, isolating, polarized, bifurcated, winner-take all world from which we are emerging – that would be a good lesson to learn indeed.
It might even start to feel like good news is coming.