For the summer months I will try to do a briefing every other week, as I am hoping many of you will take some time for vacation and renewal. These past months have been filled with adapting to new worship formats and trying out new ways to reach and care for your congregations, and undoubtedly, “crisis fatigue” has settled in. On paper it appears we have more time without in-person worships, meetings and visitations, but in actuality we are spending more time adapting and learning new ways of doing ministry. All of you need some time to recharge, renew and refresh, as we may be facing a Fall without in-person gatherings. Please take the time to rest and relax as we finish the summer!
I am teaching United Methodist Polity this summer, and as I go through the material, I can’t help but to filter our Book of Discipline and secondary resources on polity through the lens of COVID-19. There is nothing in our historical polity that would prepare us for this pandemic, and yet the historical resources are inspiring in an aspiration sense of what the church can be.
For example, the local church is a relatively new phenomenon. Methodists were at our height in the early days of our nation when Circuit Riders were assigned to geographic areas and the denomination spread through field preaching, Class and Band meetings, and Quarterly Conferences. It was only around 1920 that the local church emerged and, with clergy becoming more educated and having families, centered into localized areas. In the next 25 years the local church became the established norm, and the Circuits disappeared.
Prior to the global pandemic, local church attendance had been dropping for decades, and some new form of ministry had to emerge if we had any hope for the future. As devastating as the Coronavirus is, it has forced us to move out of the local church paradigm and seek alternative ways to do church. Because of this new way of thinking, we should not go back to the way it was. I know we don’t know of any other reality, and we must find ways to preserve the relationship building and disciple-sharing at the local level, but a new paradigm must emerge out of this crisis.
This is the “Kairos Moment” for us to experiment, innovate and create the new paradigm that will take the church into the future. What new shape it will take, no one yet knows, but this is our time to create the church of the future. We need to take all that we cherish at the local church level (relationships, disciple-making, preaching and worship, community building, fellowship, etc.) and to vision a new way this will take place outside of the four walls of our buildings. If every one of us works at this new vision and experiment with new ways to bring it about, something wonderful will break forth.
All of us need to work together, share what we are learning, and plan something dynamic as we work our way out of the pandemic. Now is the time for us to do something bold and exciting. I want each of you to share your thoughts, publicize your plans and report on both successes and failures. We will find a way to dedicate a communication channel for this purpose, but for now, please send me your reflections at email@example.com!
For inspiration this week, Joshua 1:9 says:
This is my command: Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop