As with everybody else, my life and work these past few weeks have been a scramble to adjust and respond to the ever-evolving pandemic that has now hit us here in Canada as well.
I am a pastor in a local congregation but I also work part-time for Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, offering support and care to other pastors in my area. So it has been a quite an experience to hear from a number of pastors and congregations about what they are doing.
A few things rose to the surface right away, as it became clear that we were looking at large-scale measures that would include church service cancellations.
The first is pastoral care. Just about every pastor I’ve spoken with recently has reported spending long days of phone calls and emails, trying to reach out and talk with their people. In a time of illness and isolation, we recognize how important it is to make those connections. In fact, a number of pastors shared an unexpected silver lining of deep sharing and conversation with people that might not otherwise have happened.
A second theme has been the pressing question of what to do about worship when congregations cannot gather in person. Many congregations are experimenting with some form of online worship experience. Some have recorded services or worship videos and posted them on their websites. Others have livestreamed a worship experience on Sunday mornings. And many congregations have tried out interactive worship through video chats or virtual meetings. Some pastors and congregations are working together to share an offering for their people, and some are simply pointing to the good resources being provided by others.
But whatever the form, continued discernment and adaptation has been necessary. What seemed appropriate one week may not be so the next. The situation has been changing so rapidly, it can be tough to keep up. But I have been impressed in the midst of this how carefully pastors and leaders have thought about things like worship and what its purpose truly is. And how quickly they have learned new skills and platforms to remain the church in a new kind of time.
As meetings and events have been cancelled everywhere, I’ve also seen the huge uptick in online video-conferencing. Everyone seems to be scrambling to get a Zoom account these days! Some of these calls are attempting to maintain previously scheduled meetings, but others are just popping up as people feel the need to reach out to each other.
At MC Eastern Canada, the leadership office has scheduled regular video-chats on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, with open invitation for pastors and others to gather for prayer and conversation about how to do church in this time. These are interesting developments, and make me wonder how we will continue to use this technology once the current crisis has passed.
This season has been uncharted territory for everyone, but it’s been amazing to watch congregations adapt.
Kevin Derksen is a regional ministry associate with MC Eastern Canada.