by Mary Frances, FaithX Senior Consultant
What Comes Next
Here and there in the world
and now and then in ourselves is a New Creation,
usually hidden, but sometimes manifest,
and certainly manifest in Jesus who is called the Christ.”
Paradigm: a typical example of something or model
The Oxford Dictionary
These are certainly some strange times we are living in. I admit that on some days I wake up and think to myself, “I can’t believe we are living through this.” And it gets worse by the day. Six weeks ago the clergy who I coach were busy trying to figure out how to do online worship. Today those same people are trying to figure out how to lead an online funeral or how to console the weary and grieving in their community from afar. These are awful times, indeed. Yet in the dark there is light, in the storm there is quiet and in crisis, opportunity. So, what comes next?
For decades the Church has been in decline and while there have been many who claimed to know how to reverse that trend, change has come hard for the Church. Since the Church is at its core a gathering of human beings and human beings are inherently resistant to change, righting the ship has been more than difficult. We haven’t known how to connect with our communities, we haven’t known how to innovate and bring people along with us, and we have often been more interested in the days gone by than the days yet to come.
Cue the Covid-19 pandemic.
Immediately the playing field has been leveled and the rules have changed. No one asked us if we were ready. We couldn’t host any focus groups or discussions or create strategic plans. We changed. It was no longer an option but rather a necessity. We found deep within ourselves the reservoir of resilience and flexibility that we may not have known we had. We innovated, we created, and we showed up as Church in chat rooms, on Facebook, and on Zoom. We moved out of our buildings and into the cybersphere with a speed no one thought was possible and today many congregations report that more people attend their online services than ever attended worship in their buildings. For some, online giving has increased, and online meetings are quickly becoming the norm. Now, many are asking,
“What comes next?”
What is next, indeed? When will the coast be clear? Will the Church hurry back to its buildings, go back to the way things used to be? Or are we invited to embrace this new way of being Church and, perhaps, to explore even more possibilities? It is becoming more and more clear, day by day, that gathering in person any time soon just isn’t feasible. And when we can gather in person, it won’t look like it used to—there is no going back to normal. We are in liminal space, a time in-between when we can and should grieve what is lost…people, traditions, places, rituals. And we begin to shape the future of the Church; a Church that will be flexible, nimble, inclusive, and expansive…a Church that we never could have imagined but that we are being called to co-create…. a New Creation.
FaithX is forming a working group called New Paradigms. We envision this to be a multi-denominational group of people who are interested in exploring, naming, and experimenting into some new paradigms for living as Christians in the world today, for what the Church can become. We will gather online on a regular basis, publish articles and blogs, offer webinars, and perhaps, eventually, an online conference. If you are interested in joining us, please email us at [email protected] and provide us with your name, contact information, denomination, and a little bit about what excites you when you think about the future of the Church. We look forward to exploring this new chapter with some of you.
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FaithX is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and Ken’s faith-based consulting practice at FaithX is carried out under an extension of ministry from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.