Pastoral Letter from Pastor Jeff
re: Ministry in a Pandemic
Friends in Christ,
In preparation for our first Zoom worship service I called several people who are not internet connected to make sure that they could access the worship service via the phone. I also suggested that if they wanted to try it out first that we could do a trial run. Martin Buchholz took me up on my offer, and although I had to wait on Zoom for a few minutes for Martin to connect, eventually he dialled in and he had his first ever telephone to zoom conversation. He said: “It turns out I can still learn to do new things!”
This COVID time has forced me to learn many new things: taking videos of myself (not something that I’ve much appreciated before this); editing worship services together; regularly leading meetings over Zoom. And this is also true for many of you having to adapt your work in schools, businesses and offices.
The church has always depended not on just what the pastor does, but on the ways in which we all bring our gifts together. As this time continues on much longer than any of us anticipated, each one of you is being called to learn new ways of contributing to our church community. I think of the team that used to prepare communion each week; or the social team planning the Fall Supper and other social events: some of the roles have been put on hold; others may never go back to the way that they were. It seems likely that many of our new ways of serving will happen from our homes, and not from the church at all. So I’m asking you now to prayerfully consider how you can contribute to Unity’s life in a new way.
Here are some ideas:
What about learning how to be a Zoom host on Sunday mornings, letting people into the worship service as they connect from home?
What about our need to connect with one another? Once a week call someone from Unity you haven’t talked to in a while, maybe even someone you wouldn’t even normally have spoken with at church. Find out what’s new in their life, and how they have been coping.
What about imagining new ways of fundraising that involve physical distancing while still connecting with the community beyond our church walls?
What about focussing on intergenerational relationships? How do we connect the kids and youth of our church with some “Unity grandparents.”? A once-a-week FaceTime call just to check in? A letter sent in the snail mail in return with colouring pictures?
Some of these suggestions might be pushing you outside of your comfort zone. But like Martin connecting on Zoom for the first time, or me as the video face of Unity, you might also find gifts that you didn’t know about.
In the Book of Ezra, the exiles return to Jerusalem a generation after the temple was destroyed, and a new replacement temple was built. On the day that the foundation was laid there was a great shout of praise from the gathered people but also this:
“many of the priests and Levites and head of families, old people who had seen the first house of its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping.” (Ezra 3:12-13).
The people are both joyful that that they have a temple again, but also mourning that it was not the same as what it once was.
This is where we find ourselves. We are living in a new era. The church that will emerge on the other side of this will look different than it did before. You all have something to contribute to the ministry of Unity and it may not be what you contributed before. I encourage you to experiment with something new, and as a small step to take on a new way of serving (perhaps one I named above or something else that comes to you), trusting that the Holy Spirit has given us together, the gifts that we need at this time.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.