by Steve Matthews
This blog post is part of a series on strategies and tools for helping congregations survive and thrive in the face of the COVID crisis.
True confession: in my pre-COVID days, I always had good intentions about being a good neighbor and nurturing community. I thought about joining the neighborhood association, had casual conversations like “wouldn’t it be great to have a block party” but never made it happen, met people with whom I intended to get together but never did, but mostly, I would raise my hand and speak when passing, pick up trash when I saw it, and disappear into my backyard sanctuary for solitude, gardening, and fellowship with friends (most of whom are not neighbors).
This kind of describes a lot of pre-COVID churches I know, too. They are friendly to their neighbors (the people and business owners), they care about the appearance of the neighborhood, they offer assistance to those in need… but often, friendly church members park in front of the church, enter the church doors, and find meaning and fellowship with people like them inside the walls, and work to grow and nurture what they find there.
I can almost look back to those church days with some measure of nostalgia. While it always felt uncomfortably comfortable, it was familiar, it was easy, and it was stable… or was it? It’s time to get real and let go of our attachment to what is comfortable, familiar, easy, and stable. Those days are gone for a while… for a long while (or perhaps it was just a myth). We are now pilgrims on a new journey. We may not know where we are going or how we will get there, but we have left the building… and we have left the building together.
While the reason we left is tragic and scary, we are now outside of the secure and familiar, and we are outside together. This part of the story is good news for us and good news for our neighbors. COVID-19 offers us a chance to pivot. What/Who can we see now that we haven’t seen before? What opportunities for connection, joy, support, love, collaboration/ministry in your neighborhood and your church’s neighborhood are just waiting to be noticed, named, and nurtured? How can we do better at nurturing communiy
A few years ago I was in Canada and had a conversation with a friend who was describing how her remote, semi-resort island community survived the off-season. She talked about local restaurants that wanted to keep some connection to the year-round residents in the winter while still supporting their employees. The local restaurateurs got together every year after “the season” and mapped out who would be open and when. They alternated weekends, and shifted nights during the week so that there were always options for the locals. They even shared employees so that full-time pay could be maintained. I must have looked stunned, because Caitlin smiled and said, “You know survival of the fittest is NOT our evolutionary trajectory. Our evolutionary trajectory is toward nurturing community; it’s collaboration. That is how we will survive and thrive.”
I like the word “pilgrim” because traditionally most pilgrimages were acts of devotion, they were adventurous, and they were communal. Perhaps we can see a newly forming desire and intention toward neighborhood connection as our pilgrimage together. It is who we are called to be, and it is how we will survive and thrive. Learning anew what it is to “neighbor” and “be neighbored” is a holy journey, and while we may not be able to join hands, we can still find creative ways to have important conversations, to reach out, and to collaborate for the good of our own hearts and for the good of our neighbors!
Are we ready?
This blog post is part of an ongoing series. Future posts may include:
- Tools and strategies for hosting online fellowship.
- Tools and strategies for facilitating online bible study and formation.
- Tools and strategies congregations can use to locate and reach populations most vulnerable to COVID19.
- Tools and strategies by which judicatories can resource their congregations.
- Tools and strategies to prepare for the aftermath and recovery for COVID-19.
Want to help your congregation more effectively engage the neighborhoods it serves?
Those who engage a full Neighborhood Missional Assessment or other consultative program from FaithX will receive a complete NMIR in interactive (dynamic HTML) format.
Important Note: A Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Report can also be a useful tool for identifying the prevalence of at risk groups within your membership and ministry areas, and a Neighborhood Missional Assessment can help you identify the neighborhoods where they are most prevalent.
We have reduced the cost of NMIRs and NMAs by 10% for the duration of the COVID19 pandemic.
Want to help your judicatory identify emerging missional opportunities and challenges within its boundaries?
Click here to schedule a demo/discussion
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Important Note: In the days ahead Datastory will be adding COVID-related data to MapDash to all current and future subscribers (including incidence of COVID-19, hospital locations and capacity, Twitter feeds, location of doctors).
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.