The Challenges of Congregational Leadership

The Challenges of Congregational Leadership

This has obviously been a year of challenge for our congregation. At the same time, we have experimented often and discovered much. 

Focusing as we did on safety at the outset, we were the first congregation in MCA to cease meeting in person for worship or any other activities, choosing instead to discover the joys of Zoom.  Our first “service” online was mostly a sharing time followed by heartfelt prayer. It was so good to see everyone’s faces that it seemed to matter very little that we didn’t experience the full “agenda” of a typical Sunday morning.  Even the absence of a printed order of service presented no problem!

As soon as our Executive announced that we were ceasing in-person meetings out of concern for the safety of our more vulnerable, calls started coming in about how to connect, how to contribute, and how to reach out to those whose facility with technology might benefit from some support. Our administrator and Pastor were simply AMAZING as they quickly learned about Zoom and copyright and, and, and…  A volunteer techie spent hours in Zoom workshops learning the “how to’s” that we have now come to appreciate every time we gather. Our church branch/committee chairs met weekly beginning in March (not really slowing down until August), offering support to one another and encouragement and wisdom to the Executive as we surfed the COVID wave together.  My heart is full as I remember with immense gratitude these and the many other ways the congregation pulled together to support each other during these tumultuous months.

Anyone keeping a journal of our congregation’s activities since March would have reported the following:

  • Sunday morning gatherings that began with around 50 devices/households and have recently climbed to 98, with participants signed in from across the country;
  • Seeing familiar faces online week after week after week;
  • Moving celebrations of life into which as many as 249 devices (that’s 500+ people by my rough reckoning!) signed in from around the globe;
  • Weekly Sunday school sessions with both youth and younger students;
  • Interesting life updates on FMC Gathering Place (on Facebook);
  • home drop-offs of candies, cards, hymnals;
  • Exploring how we can sing together via Zoom;
  • Connecting post-service in break-out rooms for “foyer conversations”;
  • Well-attended and engaging congregational meetings;
  • Seeing a wide range of people offering and exploring their gifts of music-making, story-telling, art, and thoughtful reflecting;
  • Engaging and moving rituals and especially communion;
  • Weekly Bible studies and virtual coffee times together;

Moving forward, we hope to be able to identify those positive things that have happened this year because of our need to meet virtually and determine how best to replicate them when we are able to be together in person again. It’s been both humbling and uplifting to bear witness to the Spirit’s movement in our midst this past year.