Why we need our judicatories now more than ever

by Mary Frances

This post is part of a blog series on
“Keeping Congregations Connected in the Face of COVID-19”
Click here for the previous post

In the PC (pre-covid 19) age, I worked at the national offices of a mainline denomination, and so it was no secret to me that many people, even within our denomination, wondered about the future of judicatories.  Were they necessary?  Could or would churches continue to support them in the long term?  

Now, in the midst of the covid era, it is clear that the role of judicatories in this time of crisis is vital and much needed.  In my coaching practice, I work with judicatory leaders as well as parish clergy and the message I hear over and over again is that the judicatories have been up in front providing much needed information, resources, support, and respite.  

Here are a few of the ways that judicatories have been leading the way and supporting churches during the covid crisis:

Support:  I know of many judicatory staff who just started calling through their directory, reaching out to every congregational leader, checking in and offering a listening ear.  As congregations were scrambling to get worship online, figure out online giving and whether it was constitutional to have leadership meetings online, judicatory staff have been able to guide, direct, and suggest resources and avenues for ongoing online congregational life.  These people became media experts so that every clergy person didn’t have to.

Pastoral care and respite:  At my installation of my first call, the Bishop explained to the kids during the children’s sermon that the role of the Bishop was to be pastor to the pastor.  I have seen this all over the country.  Bishops reaching out to clergy, offering pastoral care, just being there for people.  There are judicatories where the staff led all the aspects of online Sunday worship so that clergy could take the day off.  Bishops (including Presiding Bishops) have offered virtual sermons to give pastors a break.

Information and resources:  Bishop Ann Svennungsen of the Minneapolis Area Synod, ELCA, engaged Michael Osterholm, infectious disease epidemiologist, in a Q&A session for their entire synod to hear, providing much needed data about when and how churches could re-open (click here to view interview). In a culture of fake news and uncertainty about media, judicatories have become clearing houses for covid-related data that helps congregations in their decision-making processes regarding if, when, and how to reopen.

Judicatories have an important role supporting congregations in these challenging times and they have stepped up to the challenge.  If you haven’t taken advantage of the many resources available from your judicatory, reach out today to see how they can help support your ministry.  You don’t have to do this alone!

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