“Leadership therefore is not called Christian because it is permeated with optimism against all the odds of life, but because it is grounded in the historic Christ-event which is … a dramatic affirmation that there is light on the other side of darkness.”
Henri Nouwen: The Wounded Healer (76)
Well, here we are on the “other side” of Easter! I know there are many who were feeling very stressed in the lead up to the Easter services, with big questions around how it would all go. I also know that there are many people feeling stressed now that Easter is over, raising questions of “What now?” and generally, genuinely feeling anxious about how to engage in post-Easter life in and with our Congregations or other settings. I’d like to take the opportunity to share with you all an observation and a brief reflection arising from what I have been noticing.
Some Congregations and Ministers have been embracing this era of livestreaming worship and providing worship options online in very creative ways. Many are experiencing the time-consuming nature of doing this work. Liturgies have to be created that accommodate the scattered community whilst trying to draw people together for a sense of gathered-ness. The technology side of things (about which I have already conceded I know little) takes time to master, and then to ensure it goes “to air” without glitches and hitches (let alone the time consumed when things do not go to plan!). Resources – songs, prayers, readings, and so on – need to be pulled together and possibly distributed prior to the worship so people can participate wherever they might be. And the list probably goes on and on.
There are other Congregations and Ministers who have recognized they don’t have the resources or skills to offer worship in this way, and I am hearing from some their sense of inadequacy about this. That disturbs me greatly. For many reasons. First and foremost because it denies the truth that we are all given gifts by the Spirit as God sees fit and to suit God’s purposes. Where some have the gifts to embrace offering worship via technology, others will be gifted in offering a deeply pastoral presence through a phone call. Some will be gifted to show acts of kindness and compassion in new ways that haven’t been fully explored previously, and some will be able to offer support through blessing with financially aiding another group who is setting up a new initiative in this time. And some will be gifted with the ability to analyse what is happening and what is working well, whilst others will be gifted to plan and strategise for what can happen when we emerge after these restrictions.
In the midst of a crisis, I think we as the Church are uniquely placed to remember and act as the Body of Christ, made up of different members each with their different purposes and functions. None are less significant than any others. Some might be perceived to receive greater glory – or at least more public, visible glory – however they need the rest of the Body to do what it can do in other areas or their work will not be effective!
There is another danger that lurks before us, and that is the danger of turning what we do into a competition. I hear echoes along the lines of “because St Faithful’s is doing it next door, we at St Hopeful’s need to do it too.” I think this loosely translates to “If we’re not doing worship (or something else) in the same way as a neighbouring church, then we are not as good as they are.” (Which, when extended, possibly means that “we will lose our congregation members to another church if we don’t imitate what they are doing!”) So, we try to do it bigger and better – whatever that looks like for us – than the neighbour. There is also the competition we have within ourselves. The constant driving and striving to be more on top of things, more able to cope, more productive, more creative… and this can only end badly for us as we will inevitably disappoint ourselves and burn out. I hasten to add that I doubt others will be as disappointed in us as we are in ourselves!
So, is there more to this than simply being creative? As Easter people, what does it look like for us, this year, this season, to share the Good News? I strongly suspect that for us and for now the emphasis needs to be on “share!” I would love for us to be proactive in having the conversation about team ministry – involving both lay and ordained people. I’d love for us to begin the discussion of sharing our resources – both in giving what we have created and in receiving and using what another has created. Because none of us have all that it will take to get us through this situation. But together we can – and I believe we will.
Blessings and peace,