As congregations open up again during the Coronavirus pandemic, I want to be the first to say that pastors are under extreme pressure. There are historical moments when ministers (whether they admit it or not) really feel pressure to “get it right” even when the answer of what is right, or wrong, remains a mystery. COVID-19 is one of those times. I call these spaces “middle spaces” or liminal times where the past does not provide assurances and the future only raises questions.
For people used to linear waysof thinking, this time is just crazy-making. For people with cherished plans that seem to go awry (and suffer the condemnation or consternation of watching a good “plan” dissolve), I often recommend a system’s thinking awareness. A system’s thinking approach accepts we are not always in charge since each decision we make is later governed by other decisions… so we have to be learning and adapting as we go. We do not know the future. We may say “God’s got this” but we have no idea exactly what our role is in how God “is” getting it done.
Yet I do think ministry provides analogies that help us, particularly for those pastors who want to serve staff and volunteers during re-entry to the church. The analogy may help us adopt a “posture” to respond to the moment. What I offer is not a plan. However, I do want to offer observations that might help us communicate “why” being well prepared during COVID 19 services proves important.
The analogy comes from my professional experience with another challenge the church wrestle’s with, child safety. For twenty-five years I have worked to either fashion policy around child safety or teach it to students and pastors. It has been an episodic journey, but a journey strong enough to help me see the analogies as churches plan and encourage volunteers to adopt social distancing practices. There are limits as well (I will name them at the end of the blog) but I want to start with the connections.
Some of the questions proposed to everyone before he (she) is admitted among us may be to this effect: —
1. Have you the forgiveness of your sins?
2. Have you peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ?
3. Have you the witness of God’s Spirit with your spirit, that you are a child of God?
4. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?
5. Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?
6. Do you desire to be told of your faults?
7. Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home?
8. Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in his (her) heart concerning you?
9. Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you?
10. Do you desire that, in doing this, we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?
11. Is it your desire and design to be on this, and all other occasions, entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?
John Wesley, “Rules of the Band-Societies, Drawn Up December 25th, 1738,” in The Works of John Wesley, Jackson Edition, Vol. 8 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Edition), 292-93; The Works of John Wesley, Bicentennial Edition, Rupert E. Davies ed., Vol. 9 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1989) 77-78.
Are We REALLY Ready to Hear?
Some efforts really push people to places of despair where hope seems difficult to embrace. The recent events around George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery serve as recent examples of an enduring struggle with racism not only in the USA, but in its varying expressions around the globe. We are in the kind of cauldron of pain where the claims of #blacklivesmatter really need to be heeded, echoed, and championed.
I hear those exhausted by the ongoing struggle. While I hope justice might be done in the ensuing trials, I am deeply aware that previous judicial processes do not serve an adequate predictor. Nevertheless the recent events expose to us once again a need to work at a much deeper level in our society to begin to heal the pain. And I suspect there will be future examples of injustice, insensitivity, and missteps along the way. Saying black lives matter will not be enough, it has never been enough. We also have to listen and ask, “what next?”
Like Wesley’s admonition, we need to hear the challenge, are you really ready to hear of all your faults… plain and home? We have a lot to learn and even more to do.
This Fall 2018 I will be providing a special learning opportunity for “both” local youth ministers/workers who live around the KC area “and” for global youth pastors or other concerned ministers intrigued by with how neuroscience might influence our understanding and ministry with youth. Continue reading
Recently I was invited to take part in an experiment hosted by Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, OP Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Vice-President of External Affairs at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Dr. Mahfood is well respected through the Association of Theological Schools for his leadership in online education and other forms of technology and learning. This experiment included my watching several videos using VR Goggles. The videos really merely reflected different experiments with VR from simulations to live experience, often in remarkable settings.
During 2017 the Sunday School ministry of Kansas City First Church elected to incorporate intergenerational efforts between classes of children, youth and adults every “fifth Sunday” as two classes combined on the last Sunday of every month that included five Sundays.
December 31st afforded one last opportunity, so the church elected to round out 2017, and ring in 2018, by gathering in one collected Sunday School class to explore the meaning of Epiphany as part of the Christian Calendar