March 17, 2021

The Rev. David Peters Shares Five Resources on Pandemic Church

Every month ECFVP offers five resources on a theme. This month we've asked the Rev. David Peters, a 2017 ECF Fellow and church planter, to choose five resources from Vital Practices to highlight. Please find his choices below. Please share this email with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this monthly digest.

I’m a church planter that for the first year mingled with people every day, trying my best to get to know them, especially the ones who didn’t go to church anywhere. Then the Pandemic hit, and my ability to mingle ceased. I had a lot of grief about that, some of which was just the fear of failure, fear I would flop as a church planter.

One of the articles that helped me appreciate some of my own efforts to mingle was about Virtual Burning Man, The Church Goes to Virtual Burning Man. From what little I know about Burning Man is that it’s extremely relational. I mean, it’s so relational there isn’t money or brands there, just humans vibing with each other. Taking that extreme mingling into the virtual space must have been painful and even empty for so many. What Brian and Alex did was to be present in that virtual space, bringing the presence of God with them. It’s encouraging to see my colleagues doing their best in a global pandemic.

I confess, I am a terrible leader and have grown more terrible as the pandemic has twisted and turned. This is not to say I’m a terrible priest, I simple struggle with church governance, the meat and potatoes of church life. Too often my “leadership style” is frustrating to my Bishop’s Committee (Vestry) members, perhaps since they are used to business meetings at large companies. They are trying to help me, but sometimes my own concerns for relational dynamics conflict with their desire for efficiency and order. We are a tiny committee, three of them and one of me, but we still can get bogged down in the details. This is why Bob Schorr’s article, The Consent Agenda: More Efficient Meetings, about consent agendas was a great encouragement, not only because it makes our meetings more efficient, but because it showed me that even terrible leaders can improve.

I have heard rumors that this pandemic will end, but it’s still hard for me to believe it. But it will. It will not be our last challenge as a Church, that is sure, but it will be a big one since it has shifted so much. Tim Schenk has written a tool to reflect on how to emerge from a pandemic into a new world, Hybrid Church - A Way Forward for Church Leaders. I have found it difficult to reflect on much in the last year. It seemed like every week something new popped up and my contortions to adapt sapped my creative and reflective energy. This tool helps. Check it out.

Lots of us have been talking online about how many people we’re going to hug “when this is all over.” Even non-huggers like me miss hugs at this point. I also miss dancing, so I commend you a short and ancient (2012) article by Nancy Davidge, The Bishop Danced, that includes a description of a welcome dance in Ghana where the Archbishop of Tamale gets in on the welcoming joy. “When this is all over” I’m going to be a dancing church planter, welcoming people into our fellowship who have endured and survived this deadly disease.

So much church conflict revolves around the calendar and use of space. This has happened in most congregations that I’ve been part of. Well, imagine two distinct congregations sharing a church campus—during a pandemic! In A Two in One Ministry Grows in Houston, Uriel Lopez and Rich Houser share how they make things work in a shared campus, and their words were so encouraging to me. Instead of seeing it as a source of conflict, they have seen their shared ministry as an opportunity to build trust and love. They even worked out how to move the ropes (you’ll have to read that for yourself). Some of the greatest memories of ministry come from situations that could have been conflicts, but became opportunities to share. After all, this is what God has done for us. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son.