By Patrick Scriven
The past couple of weeks have been tough for many people. While the emerging impacts upon United Methodist congregations have been in front of me throughout each day, we all know this is much bigger than its effect on our ability to worship on Sunday mornings.
Bishop Stanovsky mentioned in her pastoral letter yesterday that she has been checking out some of the worship services being offered Sundays online. She expressed her gratitude for all those “trying something new in response to new and challenging circumstances” even as she encouraged us not to lose sight of the bigger picture.
In a similar way, I’ve been watching what’s been happening in between Sundays. Trying something new and unfamiliar is rarely easy and sometimes it can stretch us beyond our abilities and resources. It’s been a blessing to see not only the experimentation but also the collegial, connectional, resourcing you are offering to each other.
And while it’s easy for many of us to focus on worship, I’ve seen the same generous organizing and support being offered for so many other important aspects of ministry. The work that our all-volunteer disaster response people have put in on things like Connecting Neighbors is only one example.
In one of the video devotionals that the Colby and Auburn First UMCs have been collaborating on, Rev. Sheila Miranda said, “New things can emerge in times of crisis” as she reflected on her own stretching to adopt technology. The truth in those words stuck with me.
But some of the crowd-based resourcing that we are experiencing isn’t really new, even if it is new to us. When we have much, we tend to believe that we can do it ourselves, that we can go it alone. Situations like the one we currently find ourselves in remind us that there is a different, dare I say, better way. What’s new to us in this moment may be what connectionalism ought to look like — a missional falling away of our individualistic competition replaced by collaboration and the knowledge that we need each other.
To conclude on a practical note, be sure to update those websites and social media accounts with your worship and ministry plans and adaptations. It’s all a lot to keep up with (I know), but those who are less connected, or who may be looking for something for the first time, may miss your message of life and grace when they arrive to discover an empty parking lot.
Patrick Scriven is a husband who married well, a father of three amazing girls, and a seminary educated layperson working professionally in the church. Scriven serves the Pacific Northwest Conference as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries.