Pandemic Ponderings of the General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley
April 24, 2022
Joyous Eastertide! Until Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, the church rejoices that Christ is alive. Christ conquered death, lives again and still, and calls us to new life in him. (As the hymn puts it, Every Sunday is Easter Sunday from Now On!) The church rejoices! It’s also been a time when the grip of the COVID pandemic has eased considerably (especially since it is now a less deadly disease than it was at the outset due to vaccines and new treatment options) and people are getting back out and about – dining in restaurants, meeting inside buildings, gathering in homes. Church people, too.
With our return to sacred spaces (or concerning lack of return) and in this season of new life, congregations are called upon to write their next chapter, to answer the question “what is God calling us to do and to be in this new season of the church’s life?” That is the critical question before the church at all times and no less so now. How can we most faithfully join God’s mission in the world?
For help in answering that question, I want to lift up the terrific initiative of the Presbyterian Foundation called “Project Regeneration.” Project Regeneration is a consultative service provided for free by the Foundation. Ministry Foundation Officers (the one for our region is Robert Hay whom many of you know) guide congregations through a series of meetings, held on site or virtually, to help congregations consider a strategic approach to this season and into the future. They provide reading materials, serve as speakers, guide discussions, and share stories of how other congregations have creatively responded to the current moment. And they ground the whole process, which can last anywhere from three months to a year, in deep prayer.
One example of their work from a few years ago is the remarkable story of the merger of Covenant Presbyterian and University Presbyterian in Tuscaloosa which became Grace Presbyterian. You can see that story here:
But let me use their own words to tell the story of this valuable resource:
“The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many churches to innovate in new and inspiring ways. It also brought to the surface larger questions for congregations. You may be wondering if your church is being called to new ministries, or if the ministry you were doing prior to the pandemic is still sustainable.
At the Presbyterian Foundation, we’ve worked with hundreds of congregations just like yours with similar questions – prior to the pandemic – and have continued to do so during and after. Some are grappling with property questions and need to find a new property that better suits their needs. Others wanted to better serve their community and wanted help thinking through what that might mean. Some wanted help in envisioning creative ways to use their building as an extension of their ministries. And yes, some decided to close their doors – but make a lasting impact through creating an endowment to support ministries and causes their church loves.
Whatever your congregation’s next chapter, we’re here to walk with you, and discern where God may be calling you next. Our expert Ministry Relations Officers can lead your congregation through a discernment process to help you decide what is next for you.”
Two of our congregations are currently working with the Presbyterian Foundation – Providence Montgomery, and First, Birmingham. Others of you may feel like this an opportune time to work with them, too. Here is Robert’s contact information if you do: (770) 289-3884, (855) 514-3152, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends, Christ is alive and is still calling the church to join him at work in the world.
As ever in prayer,