september 2020 sm

Ministry during a pandemic

As I was reflecting on what ministry looks like for me right now, the only way I could explain it was through analogy. Imagine that you were in the middle of staging a production of a play right before lockdown, let’s say Romeo and Juliet. Very abruptly you were forced to stop production and you left the sets, costumes, and scripts behind to wait while the world reeled from the events of 2020. Just as abruptly and as these world changing events are still underway, you are allowed to return to the theater. You find all of the resources you need to stage Romeo and Juliet, but you have a choice to make. Do you pick up where you left off, carry on as best you can under the circumstances, and on with the show? Or do you decide to reset the story in contemporary times and let it reflect the changed world you are experiencing? Maybe you decide no one wants to see Romeo and Juliet right now and mount a production of Mamma Mia! instead. Maybe you’re inspired to write your own play, one that expresses new insights, tries to tell a new story, tries to make sense of what’s happening around you. Or maybe you feel called in an entirely different direction and decide not to do a play at all but use the theater for an alternate purpose.

All of these choices are good and valid and appropriate depending on the circumstances you find yourself in. Most days at my place of ministry I feel like I’m experiencing the second scenario where we’re acknowledging that things have changed, but trying to keep at least part of our experience familiar and carrying on with some of what was known with a new look and feel. That is a fine place to be right now, and I think there will be some fluidity in moving back and forth through these different scenarios as the year moves on as well as finding other, as of yet unimagined, scenarios. As we are staging this new production, though, I sometimes forget my lines, or have a miscue, or fumble with an unfamiliar prop. Sometimes I just can’t see how the new script is supposed to work, or start a scene from the former script without thinking.  It has been extremely helpful to have colleagues who are adaptable, creative, and compassionate! 

We are called now to not only minister to the people who come through our doors, but to one another and our personal and collective well-being in very intentional ways. We’ve only been back to work for a few weeks and there are days that I find myself overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of it all after having spent the better part of 6 months at home with a lot of time to spare and a lot of new questions to explore. I have to be gentle with myself and practice extra self-care right now, and that includes during working hours. And I have to extend that gentleness and patience to those I encounter in ministry who are also reentering this experience changed people. We are all striving to lean into the Spirit, and trusting that the Playwright continues to bring the Word to life and light through our efforts!