Post by Rev. Ken Sampson
Thanks Pastor Tricia, for this blog invitation on Imagining Church in light of the current restrictions in place due to the coronavirus. Here are a couple of thoughts:
What have we learned?
Community. Especially through Cornwall Presbyterian Church on-line worship and sermon texts/exposition, we’re made more deeply aware that we are a community. Not only of faith, but of friendship and common “hunkering in place” experience.
Continuity. Whether through “Zoom” sessions, Church website worship postings, email announcement and prayer updates, some flow of experience continues. And perhaps because we’re invited into homes when we Zoom, a different sort of transparency takes place. Yet there remains a longing for the fuller face-to-face in-person connection.
Opportunities for reflection. From our confirmation class reading, the following questions in finding meaning in difficulties, seem to apply to many of us: “Who do I love? What have I done with my life? Am I ready for whatever is next?” (The Question That Never Goes Away, by Philip Yancy, p. 49). I think most of us have a greater appreciation for God’s glorious out-of-doors, creation, and the beauties of this Hudson Highlands region as a result of the slowdown in activity. Many of us may also experience a sort of “closing in on oneself.” That is, our worlds become more focused on day-to-day matters, less outreach, more relaxed goals and fewer projects to pursue.
Priestly function. On the other hand, there is a dynamic of appreciation for and empathy with so many negatively affected by this stay-in-place mandate. For many of us, prayers for members of the congregation and neighbors who directly work and engage the public (first responders, fire, police; medical care communities, orderlies and hospital janitors; trash haulers, civic employees…) are a real dimension of our devotional lives. The priestly role of our faith, an empathetic helping-to-carry-the-load, whether through prayer or other means of support, is deepened and enhanced.
What comes next?
On-Line Presence. We have moved more fully into the digital, social media world. As a Church, I would envision that our website becomes a “threshold” or doorway by which many newcomers and interested folks discover CPC. Interviews with congregation members could enhance communication of the richness of worship and community at Cornwall Presbyterian Church. Livestream or recorded services, in addition to full sanctuary, in-person experiences, may become the norm. Use of web-based platforms, especially for memorial and funeral services, may broaden the span of influence and pastoral care. Classes may be augmented with Zoom sessions periodically to take advantage of the different transparency and sharing dimensions offered through this technology. Additionally, when restrictions begin lifting, a dual track (on-line and in-person) worship experience may be helpful.
Those on the margins. Members of our Church community who are not digitally engaged, or are physically hampered, may be an increasing focus of attention. Tapping the broader Church for innovative pastoral care and spiritual growth for those with disabilities may be a calling some would like to pursue.
Seminary or broader Presbytery educational offerings. Perhaps we could link-up with facilitators from the broader church and offer youth and adult opportunities for learning.
Face-to-face, small group, in-person opportunities. I’d envision we continue intentionally offering times of study, fellowship and community, that allow us to enjoy the richness of our shared humanity, faith and friendship in deeper, in-person ways.