Page 6 - Moravian Messenger March 2022
P. 6

Being the Church in in and and after COVID:
Challenges and and Opportunities
In In this article I I I will use the the Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth's model model to structure the the the content This model model states that when congregations face trauma they go through five phases: Impact Heroic Disillusionment Reconstruction and and Wiser Living I I write from a a a a a a a a personal basis and and do not reflect the the views of the Provincial Board Before I I address the the the journey of the the the Moravian Church in in in the the the British Province in in in and and after COVID COVID it it is is is important to acknowledge that that the the the COVID COVID pandemic is is is is is is is not the the the first time that that the the the the Church has faced an an an an an existential crisis - and and and it is is is is is still here here and and will will continue to to be here here in in in some form form or or or or another if not not in in in its current form form If you you you know know your biblical history you you you will will know know that in the the the the the Old Testament the the the the the Jews faced existential challenges through oppression by by the the the the the the the Egyptians the the the the the the the Babylonians and and the the the the the the the Romans (among others) - and and each time they have come through by by following strong leadership by by journeying with circumstances and and by by by adapting - whilst never losing a a a a a a a a sense of of of their their identity and and of of of their their part in in in the the the purpose of of of God Their journey has been described as as a a a a a a a a a a a process process of of of orientation orientation orientation disorientation and re-orientation The same process process happened for for the the the early early Christians in in in that they were persecuted before being able to re-orientate once again and even the the the the early early early Czech- based Moravian Church was nearly wiped out in in in in in the the 30 years' war before being renewed in in in in Herrnhut So this article is is is is is not intended to be be be be pessimistic - but it is is is is is is is realistic I believe that realism rather than burying our head in in in in the the sand is is is is is is what we need to to confront in in in order to to re-orientate wisely So turning to the the Church Church in in in in COVID and and looking at at the the Impact phase: if we think that Church Church first and and and foremost is is about relationship and and and community in in which the the worship of God is is central to to to to our purpose the the COVID pandemic caused us us to to to to rethink what what it it it means means to to to to to worship and and what what it it it means means to to to to to be be community At a a a a a a a a a a time when when we could could no longer gather together because of lockdown could could God still be be present when when two are are three are are gathered together in in His name even if it is is over Zoom? The pandemic threw up all all kinds of of theological questions such as as 'why has God allowed this to happen?' made made many of of of us us more aware of of of of our mortality and even made made us us us question the the theological precepts of of of Holy Communion Some of of of us us us (myself included) lost folks who were close to us us us So So whether we we acknowledge it or not COVID has impacted us us as as a a a a a Church In responding to to to the need for continued worship and pastoral support we entered what might be be considered to to to be be a a a a a a a a a a Heroic phase in in in which various congregations and and Ministers heroically tried to plug gaps in in in worship and and community through the the provision of Zoom services Worship on on on on on the the Web regular weekly (and sometimes daily) telephone conversations which were pastorally designed to to combat potential isolation Zoom Zoom Zoom Bible Studies Zoom Zoom Zoom prayer meetings a a a a a a a a a a Zoom Zoom Zoom Synod in in in in in which voting could be conducted electronically and and even a a a a a a a a a drive-in Christingle service This involved learning new computer skills and and and adapting to worshipping and and operating in in in in in a a a a a a a a a a a a different context That provision showed us us that we we as as a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a Church which can be be described as as 'traditional' could pragmatically adapt on on on a a a a a a a a a a a a a 'needs must'
basis It also enabled enabled creative innovation and and enabled enabled the the the Church to to expand beyond the the the the the frontiers of the the the the the British Province to to to include brothers and and and sisters from other other provinces in in in in in worshipping and and studying together It gave us a a a a a a better sense of other worship worship practices that go on within our unity Whilst there there have been been many advantages to to these heroic responses there there has has been been a a a a a a a a a a shadow-side for the the the the the Church too This might be be be identified as as as the the the Disillusionment phase Some Ministers (who are only human beings after all) have questioned their their vocation and their their ability to to do the the the work effectively - perhaps bringing retirement closer to to to mind many elderly and and other members haven't wanted to to embrace the the the technology but have have instead craved physical human connection there has been a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a financial impact on on on on on many congregations as as regular regular giving has become unstable with not getting out regularly to Church and and our Moravian schools have have faced financial crisis as as international boarders haven't been able to travel and and and parents have have have demanded concessions for the the on-line provision of education These issues have have seriously impacted the the British Province financially It has been difficult to provide a a a a a a a a a a a ministry for young people in in in in in in many many of our congregations as as interactive ministries are are more difficult on on on Zoom and many many youth leaders haven't wanted to to work physically with young people who are are perhaps unfairly regarded as as 'vectors of infection' Community lunches and dementia cafes have had to to to be halted as as as work with the vulnerable although highly needed was just just too risky And just just as as things started to to to to return to to to to some sense of greater normality the the virus mutated again leading to to to further restrictions and and and and greater pandemic fatigue For many ministers and and and and Church leaders it has been difficult to preach a a a a a a a a a a a a gospel of of hope and and and and not become disillusioned disillusioned themselves by the the the sense of of 'treading water' - whilst accompanying others who are disillusioned disillusioned How do we we hold on on to to some sense of Christian resilience as we we journey through a a a a a a pandemic that seems to to have no obvious end?
Now turning to the the Church after COVID - what we we might see as as the the the Reconstruction phase Because we we don't know how long the the the pandemic will will continue for and and and what will will be left of our Church it it it is is difficult to to know how to to reconstruct it it it - and and and there is is no no blueprint for for recovery No one has dealt with these particular set of circumstances and and opportunities before that that we can follow The scientists say that that that pandemics usually last about five years but that that that is is not a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a guaranteed period of time - and and and with the the remarkable vaccines and and medicines that that that have become available to us us that that timeline may may be be shortened - - yet yet other variants may may yet yet come along and prolong it - - we just don't know Life is uncertain Currently the the the situation is is that there are about 1 000 members in in in in in the the the British Province within 32 congregations (some of whom are just about holding on on on from closure) served by 17 ministers (at least eight of whom will be eligible for retirement within the next ten years) There are generations missing in in most congregations and and the the future looks problematic Whenever the the pandemic ends what will remain however is a a a a a a a a a continued lived experience of God's presence and and a a a a a a need to worship Him in in in 30 

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