Or “what they didn’t tell you at Carey”

Being fresh off the block, I’m looking back at my Carey training and realising that there were a few gaps….

Never once was I given an assignment titled “Compare and contrast different ecclesiastical models, with specific reference to pandemics and physical distancing.”

Or told to “Discuss different video-conferencing apps available and their relative advantages and disadvantages both in terms of the ease in which you are able to, in a step-wise manner, explain to a technically challenged church member how to download and install your chosen software, and at the same time, ensure that your children are not trying to camp-cook in the living room.”

Given these obvious deficiencies in the Carey curriculum, and the speed of change occurring, this pastor decided he had only one course of action.  Slow down.  Slow right down.  Stop, look both ways and then start moving.  Because, you know, pandemic pastoring is way above my pay scale. 

So, given no alternative, I decided to actually ring my people (oh, the awesomeness of a smaller congregation) and talk to them (or even better, just listen), starting with those that were more vulnerable, or on the periphery of our church. 

From there, it was all about connecting people, and encouraging them to connect; giving people opportunities to gather regularly (Zoom prayer-and-coffee mornings); looking for opportunities to be present with people (what, stop the facebook/phone-call multitasking?); pursuing presence over perfection (ugh, got the name of their cat wrong, again); giving people permission to fall apart, to lament; and always, always reminding people that they are part of a larger church whānau.  That we may be dis-membered spatially, but we are re-membered presently and eternally. 

The delicious irony is that already I’ve heard some people (reality check: not all) say that they feel more connected now, than before….

And the good news in this new pastoring landscape is that as people reach out, as people support, as people care for each other and re-assess their priorities, the Kingdom of God is seen to be alive and kicking; love lived out in the ordinariness (reality check: and challenges) of life in lockdown. 

Written by Lachlan Bull | Pastor, Greymouth Baptist Church and Carey Alumni