Minister’s Column April 2021

Dear Ones,

Our ministry theme for April is becoming. I can’t imagine a better theme for this springtime moment. As we slowly begin to emerge from pandemic restrictions, as we slowly begin to contemplate how we can start sharing congregational life in person, I urge us to contemplate who and what we are becoming.

I assume the pandemic has changed us. Our congregational life won’t return to exactly the way it was prior to COVID-19. That is, some aspects of congregational life will be pretty much the same as before; some will be different. We need to prepare ourselves for both. And the best way to begin that preparation is to contemplate, together, who and what we are becoming.

As a way into this contemplation, I’d like to share a set of questions from the nationally recognized church consultant, Susan Beaumont. (Special thanks to Gina Campellone for bringing these questions to my attention!) Beaumont divides her questions into three categories. First, she asks about loss. For so many of us there has been extraordinary loss during the pandemic. We need to grieve our losses before we can enter fully and authentically into the next stage of our life—before we can become! What has our congregation lost? Let’s try to name it. Consider these questions:

  • What were we on the verge of discovering or accomplishing before the onset of the pandemic? What needs to move forward in different ways now?
  • What was possible before that may not be possible for some time—if ever?
  • What seemed important before that feels superfluous now?

Second, Beaumont asks about our assumptions. The pandemic has likely undercut the power of at least some of our assumptions about congregational life. What assumptions have lost their power? Consider these questions:

  • What was undervalued before that may hold greater value now?
  • What mattered about geography before that no longer matters?
  • What new abundance are we experiencing now? Where are we experiencing scarcity now that was not evident before?

Third, what is emerging? The pandemic has not only forced us to adapt and innovate in the short-term, but also to welcome new ways of being in the long-term. Consider these questions:

  • What is our greatest asset now?
  • What relationships will we need to build on or strengthen in the months ahead?
  • What unique role might our congregation play in local, national, and even global recovery?
  • What long term changes in the bigger picture would we like to be part of bringing to fruition?

I urge each of you to spend some time with these questions. I invite you to share your responses with me, either by email, phone, Zoom meeting, or outdoor in-person meeting. Let’s get together! Then, in the coming weeks, I hope to organize a series of group conversations (virtual and in-person) to gather and hone your collective responses. Watch the regular eblasts for times and locations. We are in a mode of becoming, and it is wise for us to articulate.

With love,Rev. Joshua Pawelek

—Rev. Josh