Contemplating our year with Covid, it occurred to me that COVID-19 rewrote my job description. It wasn’t an official act or one that went through the process of leadership analysis. It wasn’t even conscious. One week we were meeting at church as normal. The next Sunday, Daniel and I were at the church building standing in front of a GoPro camera trying to act like we’ve done this before.
Like so many other ministers, we entered into a new arrangement of ministry with a Governmental stay at home order. A whole new set of rules were in place and it was a time of endless adjustments. Looking back, so many of the activities of ministry were put on hold, cancelled, or digitized. The stress of having to so completely rewrite the script of serving a church in quarantine led me to write a post that became the only viral post I’ve ever written: The Coming Pastoral Crash.
Once we started meeting again, there were divergent opinions about everything. Should we meet or not? Should we wear masks the entire service or just as we come and go? How are we going to maintain a social distance? Reading new kinds of medical literature and opinion didn’t seem to help me a lot. One reason is that I’m not a medically trained professional! Another reason is that the medically trained professionals didn’t agree and honestly didn’t know what to do either. I think everyone tended to trust the doctors and writers that agreed with the approach they wanted to take.
For a while ministry was totally online. Later it became a hybrid in person / digital ministry. As time progressed new questions about Do we continue with the online presence? Shifting to digital ministry and then back to a more in person ministry but retaining the digital presence … it’s a lot.
I’m not complaining, just ruminating over the way that COVID-19 rewrote my job description without any negotiation.
Moving forward has its own challenges. The perspective of many is to go back, to try to establish a 2019 church and reboot from there. Personally, I don’t think that’s possible. We have a 2020/2021 experience that has changed a lot of things. The truth is our church spent 2019 preparing for a potential merger that didn’t happen. We had about a month between laying that potential down and a Covid shutdown. In reality, our church would have to go back to 2018 to reboot. I think it is much more positive to relaunch right where we are, knowing what we know, and staging for a post-quarantine (to borrow a term from Thom Rainer) church. But maybe that should be another post.
Most ministers can tell this same story, mine is not unique. But I do think it is worth reflection this week. We are approaching the one year anniversary of the stay-at-home order in Louisiana.
Controversial, pandemic, political, opinionated, deadly … all terms that can describe the COVID-19 experience. And it changed everything.
Below are some posts I’ve written about the experience of ministry in a pandemic if you are interested. Thanks for reading.