Ministry during the pandemic has certainly looked somewhat different to the regular parish ministry we've all been used to.
Revd Bryony Taylor, Rector at St James Barlborough and St John the Baptist Clowne, writes:
Despite having worked as a social media consultant before being ordained, I still have had to learn not to play the comparison game and compare my ministry during lockdown with that of other churches.
Comparison, they say, is the thief of joy!
So before I share some lessons I’ve learnt during lockdown, be encouraged that it is your faithfulness to God that counts more than anything!
There are three areas I have been interested to see grow or be affected by this time of pandemic:
People’s discipleship has deepened in a lot of areas during lockdown.
Unmoored from the safety of our church buildings, people have been expected to fend for themselves spiritually.
I distributed some prayer booklets before lockdown and a number of people have told me that they have been praying far more than usual during lockdown.
People have found it helpful to create a routine that includes prayer.
I set up a ‘dial a sermon’ system so that people can ring a phone number to listen to this week’s sermon.
Several people have told me they ring the number twice a week, once on a Sunday and then they listen again later in the week.
That’s something you can’t normally do with sermons (and is a bit scary for us preachers!)
But I’ve been deeply encouraged that people have been engaging with sermons in depth and learning more about their faith.
Much has been said about online viewing figures being a lot higher than the numbers we usually have in the pews on a Sunday.
I’m not so interested in the numbers, however, but more in individuals who have engaged with our online worship, perhaps for the first time.
I joked with people that if they get bored they can always fast forward me or mute me.
But joking aside, I think that the fact that you can ‘dip your toes in’ to worship without fear of ‘getting it wrong’ and also do that in your pyjamas if you like, acts as the bait to attract new fish!
It is much easier to send someone a YouTube link than to bring them physically with you to a church service.
The online environment is the ideal place for us to be ‘fishers of men’.
Disabled people have been aware for a long time of the importance of using technology to enable them to be included in worship.
This has been highlighted during lockdown and I hope that we will continue to ask the question ‘who is not here?’ when we plan our services.
How can we continue to reach people when we return to worship in our buildings?
I will be continuing to offer a midweek Eucharist on Facebook and also over the phone (using telephone conferencing) on a Thursday morning to ensure that those who are still self-isolating have a way to connect with God and each other.
I hope this pandemic will unleash far more awareness and inclusion of those who are usually unable to attend our churches in person.
If you want to learn more about some of the technology I mention in this article, please visit bryonytaylor.com for detailed guides on how to set things up.