“Pivot” is a new buzzword. In the business world, it describes the significant changes a business must make to either recover from a tough period or accommodate new factors in their business environment. Pivot also means the point on which something rests and turns or upon which something rotates or oscillates.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches have successfully pivoted within both definitions. A foundational faith in God’s protection and the resulting hope anchors the church firmly on the pivot that allows for adaptation and innovation in the new “normal.” Since mid-March, in every aspect of life, we have seen many adjustments and our churches have not been excluded.
I was blessed earlier this summer to reach out by phone or video call to many of the churches and pastors in Classis Huron. Using several questions as a guideline for our conversations, the intent was to do a check-in on the health and wellbeing of pastors, churches, and communities—as well as to gain an understanding of their capacity to meet the challenges of COVID-19.
I found for the most part, that churches, their leaders and staff had risen to the challenge of being the church in a context when they could not go to church. For some churches, the global health crisis has highlighted the strengths and adaptability of their communities; for others, it has highlighted an emphasis on the basics of relationships and intentional connections. Still others found ways in which to serve their communities, addressing gaps not previously evident. There has been a recognition that individuals and families in crisis stand to hurt more: more neglect, abuse, fracture and toxicity.
Digital technology became the medium by which the churches of Classis Huron could communicate and worship. And not surprisingly, most churches improved quickly, developing confidence, additional skills and, at times, upgraded equipment to allow members to worship together virtually. Vacant churches shared worship with neighboring churches. Programs, clubs and meetings were either adapted to online transmission or canceled in the short-term.
Innovative solutions to continue church life have flourished. Pre-recorded ceremony was used to celebrate milestones including Sunday school graduation, office bearer installation, and more. One church, recognizing the act of gratitude and dedication, offered a drive-by offering every third Sunday. Members were able to connect from their vehicles with the offering plate as well as with the pastor and deacons. A campus ministry staple, a small group called “Fermented Faith”, continued—although glasses and discussion were raised through online means. Many pastors commented on their appreciation of a continued version of the Pastor’s Breakfast which allowed them to share vulnerabilities and learn from each other in a space of no judgement.
When asked for a Bible passage that was bringing them or their congregations’ comfort and strength during this challenging time, my conversations became moving and inspired. Many shared their reliance on the Psalms and the words that had centuries ago brought the psalmist comfort in times of trouble. God is faithful and therein is our confidence. Equally relevant were New Testament passages, which contained the promises of God’s love and the promises of a new tomorrow!
We discussed what it was to be missional in the COVID-19 context, and I welcomed the well-thought comments designed to inspire and comfort in this time. I will list a few below:
We have an opportunity to switch from crisis response to sustainability planning
We need to be awake—to revision being the church rather than going to church
As a church of mission—we need to empower members looking for opportunities to offer grace
This time is somewhat a time of Sabbath rest and gives us the opportunity to re-focus on lifestyle considerations including church life
We are stretching many aspects of life; it may be a time where anything is possible
The church does not have a mission, but the mission has a church; we are to equip our members in a whole new way
There is much more I could share. I see God at work in our towns and cities and in the churches within classis. I see them securely attached to our sovereign God and Jesus Christ. From there I see them following the Holy Spirit’s leading to be relevant and effective within the coronavirus pandemic. The pivoting church is a beautiful thing that will bring with it hope and new opportunities. Praise God for his many blessings.
Joan Brady, Resonate Classis Huron Mission Catalyzer