by Frank Mansell III, Pastor, John Knox Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis
“Thank you for getting the Sunday service online. For the first time in a long time I am able to experience being connected to what once was a part of my normal life. Alice was able to experience the service yesterday and was in awe this was possible. She truly enjoyed being able to listen even if she couldn’t see you – she still recognized your voices. Thank you.”
This message came from a long-time member of the church after our third week of worshiping online amid the coronavirus pandemic. We’d been living adaptive leadership hour-by-hour during that time, still unsure if this new way of being church was truly effective. Unsettling, unnerving, surreal – those were just a few of the emotions I was experiencing in this truly unique time.
When I read this message, it made me realize that while all of us are now living a new normal, many in our churches and community had already been living in quarantine. This member has been the primary caregiver for Alice, her 103-year-old mother, since the member’s husband died five years ago. Her level of activity has slowly diminished to the point that she can only leave the house once or twice a week, when caregivers come to give her a break. She’s just one example of the many in our communities who have been physically isolated for years.
As we have settled into this new normal, our church leadership has begun to ask, “How will this change us in ways that strengthen our connections as a church?” Online worship has actually helped more people feel connected. What can we continue to do to break through people’s isolation so they know they are not alone? People are offering creative ideas for how to share the light of Christ in this world. How do we continue to be a laboratory for innovation, and not just go back to all our familiar routines and habits?
The Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program stretched me in ways that have truly prepared me to lead in such a time as this. I am grateful every day for the incredible influence this program has had in my ministry and my life. My prayer is that when this pandemic begins to ease and we are able to return to work, school, and social gatherings, we will be changed in ways as the church which offers this world life-altering hope – for those we see, and for those who have always felt alone and isolated.