We are living in a generational moment for our nation and our communities. The crisis of COVID-19 has created technical and adaptive leadership challenges that our NT-NL congregations have responded to with great agility and effort. It has been wonderful to watch and gratifying to see our leaders pivot, learn, and grow in this time. Despite this great efforts the crisis has revealed cracks in our society that have only been magnified in the recent week in response to the murder of George Floyd. Long simmering tensions have brought forth outpourings of protest, anger, violence, and amazing acts of courage and mercy. The systemic and institutional racism that is the focus of these outpourings is the subject of other blogs including my leader message for June.These crises cannot be ignored or overshadowed. However, leaders must be willing to take time, think critically, and be able to look forward through the crisis to the context that is being created in our midst.
The purpose of this blog is to reiterate my belief that just as the church has played a role in serving and witnessing in these crises the church will continue to have a vital role in our world going forward. In fact that role is expanding and changing as you consider how we move back to in-person worship, take seriously the work of anti-racism, and ultimately see these crises as an opportunity to proclaim the gospel and be evangelists in new and more authentic ways. It will require us to be willing to take on new tasks but also let go.
As such, thinking about your understanding of the role that you and your community will play and your capacity to engage that expanding vocation is critical. To begin that conversation I offer these five questions for you to consider.
- How has God spoken to you in this time? What are you learning right now and what are you realizing you need to learn?
- Considerations: spiritual awareness of God’s presence, knowledge or skills needed, new learning, engaging anti-racism, realities that need to be faced.
- How is your community’s call changing? Who are you seeing now you didn’t before? How are you engaging your neighborhood/context for the good of God’s world?
- Considerations: Needs identified, cultural competency, neighborhood engagement, community demographics/congregation demographics, mission.
- How will your community’s online presence continue/develop/change as you go back to in-person worship?
- Considerations: Maintaining connection, Christian education online/in-person, new categories of membership, crossing geographic borders and engaging neighbors, stewardship education.
- How are you and your leaders assessing the capacity of your community to withstand another significant interruption?
- Considerations: Another pandemic/social disruption within next 18-24 months, energy of community to rally, leadership/financial/facility needs/capacity, is mission being accomplished.
- How is your spirit and sense of call given the expanding and changing nature of the vocation in this time?
- Considerations: New roles being negotiated, work of clergy changing, energy for learning this new work required, what resources do you know of or need.
These questions and considerations are far from comprehensive. However, the reason I am asking you to consider them is they are questions I am asking my staff and our synodical ministries to address as well. Your answers to those questions will also then help guide us in our work as synod and Briarwood to equip you in this learning. As such, in the coming week a form will be developed with these questions and sent to NT-NL rostered/authorized leaders.
This is not intended to be another report to the bishop. Instead it is a tool that I pray will help us as a synod, in mission together, to continue the work of discerning and productively working towards our future. The crises of our time continue to prove that the days of 5 year or even 3 year plan are over. Ministries must be able to pivot continually while still keeping the focus, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ through word and deed, central. I appreciate your attention and considerations of these and other questions. If you desire assistance in this work my staff is available to you as are our coaching resources and other leadership initiatives.
These are challenging times in which we are leading yet we do so confident that God is guiding and leading us into the future, which ultimately is God.