Hybrid Church - A Way Forward for Church Leaders
One of the unfortunate realities of pandemic ministry is that church leaders have, by necessity, spent too much time scrambling and not enough time reflecting. That certainly describes my own experience as a parish priest who literally had to turn a brick and mortar institution into a virtual one overnight.
I know I’m not alone, as clergy and lay leaders everywhere have faced similar circumstances and challenges, all while attempting to plan into a void of uncertainty amid existential exhaustion. It’s no wonder reflecting on the future of the church during this time of ministry triage hasn’t risen to the top of anyone’s to-do list. We’ve all just been trying to make it through the day.
After a full year of pandemic ministry, I finally took a bit of time to drink some coffee and think about the post-pandemic church in a more strategic way. This time of breaking open our traditional assumptions and radically altering “the way we’ve always done things” has offered us an opportunity to boldly embrace new models of ministry.
If we approach this with a mindset of resurrection, some deeply-held ministries and traditions will, by definition, die as we seek new and vibrant life as followers of Jesus Christ. Naming them, grieving for them, and then moving on, will allow us to thrive in new ways.
I recognize that every parish context is different and that not everything I share in Hybrid Church will resonate. There remain deep truths that have yet to emerge from this time of maintaining community while staying apart. Yet if we don’t have a framework for working through the challenges and opportunities in front of us, the needed transformation will not take place. And that has profound ramifications for the future of both our individual parishes and the church broadly defined.
I invite your parish leadership to sit with this document and reflect deeply upon your post-pandemic ministry. You may use it as a basis for a Vestry retreat or take up the reflection questions month by month over the coming year.
None of us can predict the future. Yet through fervent prayer and decisive action, we may well end up where the Spirit is calling us as a reimagined community of faith.
The Rev. Tim Schenck is rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, MA. Creator of the wildly popular online devotion Lent Madness, Tim is the author of five books full of faith and humor including, most recently, Holy Grounds: The Surprising Connection between Coffee and Faith – From Dancing Goats to Satan’s Drink (Fortress Press). When not tending to his parish, drinking single-origin coffee, desperately seeking material for his syndicated “In Good Faith” column, or blogging at Clergy Confidential, he’s likely hanging out with his family that includes his wife Bryna, two sons Benedict and Zachary, and their dogs Delilah and Cooper. Follow him on Twitter @FatherTim.