As I conclude my time on Consistory, and as President, I thought I would reflect on where we are as a church, some of the lessons learned and where we are going. It has not been an easy road over the last three years, being without a Pastor as well as dealing with COVID, but God has certainly sustained us throughout this period. In fact, as I noted in my last reflection I believe our thirst for God has become greater as we lean into Him to sustain us through this time of uncertainty. More importantly, I also think that through this period God has provided us a unique opportunity to grow and experiment with the delivery of His message in ways we may never have thought of even two years ago.
I believe one of the key questions that has been raised during this time is ‘What does it really mean to be the Church?’ In the past, we might have said that it is the building we go to on Sunday morning to worship God and sing songs of praise and listen to thought provoking messages. Well today we do not need to go to a church building to do this. We can sit at home and enter a ZOOM call and be part of a worship service.
But if God teaches us nothing more as a result of COVID, then we certainly should have learned that being a church is more than just a building, and this is lesson one. In fact, it is the people that make the church what it is. Through all the COVID restrictions one of the most difficult tasks as church leaders was how to stay connected with one another. This led us to weekly and then bi-weekly newsletters, where one of the most important elements was the prayer requests. Thank you so much Bill for your gathering of our prayer requests and to others that contacted one another in the church. Having an opportunity to mingle on ZOOM before and after worship services was another mechanism but limited as only one person can speak at a time. For Christmas and Easter we provided plants to the Congregation to remind people that we are the church and we care for one another. Unfortunately, it was more difficult to connect with those with limited or no internet connections. So, the second lesson that God is teaching us is that connections with one another is important to be a church. Perhaps more important is that this does not have to be just initiated by leaders in the church but can be done by anyone within the church, by just reaching out and saying “Hi – I have missed you and I care about you.”
Over the last seven months we have been blessed to have messages delivered by Pastors both near and far as part of our ZOOM worship services. God has provided us with the technology we have today to be able to do this. However, by not having a Pastor, perhaps He has moved us from just looking locally for Pastors to now looking more broadly outside our immediate area. Should we perhaps look at a model whereby we continue to include delivery of messages from other Pastors in the future through video technology? This does not mean that we do not need to have our own Pastor, but perhaps our Pastor can do less preaching and focus more on programming and outreach functions. This is lesson 3 that God has for us in being open to doing things differently and looking at what is important for us to accomplish our mission and being able to work cooperatively with others.
So as we soon, hopefully, start to come out of this pandemic with all of its restrictions, we need to recognize that some things will be different when we resume in person services. I suspect we may still use some video music – but we can at least sing along together. Offering will likely continue to be done mostly by EFT and less so by cheques or cash. Communion may continue using pre-packaged elements. Our messages may be a combination of video and in person preachers. We may continue to use tables at the church, as opposed to just chairs. Perhaps more importantly, we will likely need to continue to offer video recordings of services and enhance our social media presence.
We have a great vision of “A place where church and community connect and grow.” We are currently learning to connect better digitally. While being a church is more than a building, our church building does provide opportunity for us to be a place where connections within our community can expand. Just recently a community organization has rented our building for their weekly meetings on Wednesday evenings. There are likely many more opportunities for community groups to use our facilities, we need only to pray and reach out!
So as I leave my role on Consistory, I am confident that truly God does have an exciting plan for our church. We must however, continue to be open to exploring new ways of doing things together remembering that our God is our constant source of strength and stability through any change and He will help us persevere. We must all be the church and must reach out to one another and others, whether in the church or outside. And let us experience our faith, as so aptly said in Jeremiah 29:11:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Grace and peace to you always!