Over the past month, we have all been adjusting to a new normal for our congregations. When we learned that we would need to close our sanctuaries and stop meeting in person, many of you bravely jumped into the world of online church through social media platforms and private Zoom rooms. Maybe the first Sunday was a bit rocky for you and your members, but after a few tries, everyone seemed to get the technology figured out. Some of you even started getting creative with it and have connected with a cohort that meets every Monday to learn about what other congregations are doing in this area. Then we made it through Easter and for most churches, we saw our largest attendance in years!
As we got three to four weeks into this crisis, we began to realize that this experience was going to change us in lasting ways. We are not going to “go back to normal” once we flatten the curve. We are living into an entirely new world. Like many of you, I began to think about how the Church would change because of this experience and called on colleagues I trust – Jacqui Lewis, Brian McLaren, Traci Blackmon, Diana Butler Bass – and asked to have a series of conversations about what they could see, sense and know from their settings. We titled these sessions “What Will Happen to Our Churches?” We have now hosted two of those conversations which I hope you will take a moment to view. I am deeply indebted to them for their wisdom.
I also took some time to put together some thoughts about what we need to prepare for as we lead the Church forward. I called the article “Ten Ways the Church Will Be Changed by COVID-19.” In it, I explore what changes we can anticipate sooner than later, hoping that for some congregations who might be vulnerable, you could start to work on readying your church.
As we move into what feels like the 1,000th month of this crisis, the experience is now normalized enough that we are considering bigger questions. What kind of world do we want to rebuild together? What economy could work for everyone? How can we live more sustainable and balanced lives? How might we save our planet?
I’ve been reading a great deal about emergent theory and living systems. In a TED Talk by Dr. Kathleen Allen where she talks about living systems, she asks:
- What would our organizations look like if we created conditions conducive to the people who worked in them?
- What would our communities look like if we created conditions conducive to the people who lived in them?
- What changes would we make if the answers to these two questions focused our collective goal for the world we create?
She goes on to say that sometimes we have to let go of what we have always known to make space for something new to emerge. The questions change:
What do I need to control? ➔ What can I unleash?
Who can make this work? ➔ What interactions will make this work?
How do I avoid resistance? ➔ How do I welcome resistance?
How do I influence individual actions? ➔ How do I influence the field (or culture)?
How can I create change? ➔ How can I transform the energy that already exists in the system?
I hope we don’t rush back into the world too soon. I pray that we take the time, together, to think about and engage these vital questions. I would hate for us to waste a global pandemic by failing to learn what it can teach us about being more fully awakened people. We can create a better world on the other side of this adventure if we have the wisdom to know how to do so. I pray we trust this journey enough to let it take us to where we need to go.
We are all in this together.