By Ed Thompson
I want to address three topics in this article.
1) I think we need to celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month now. Normally, that happens in October, but these are not normal times. While pastors may be not be in their office, while hospital and nursing home visits have been prohibited, and while funerals and weddings are being postponed, your pastor is still working, probably harder than they were before.
They are trying to figure out how to do online worship, trying to figure out who needs to be where at what time and who needs to send them video by when, as well as how to edit that video into the service and trying to decide whether the video really needs to be redone so it’s decent quality and doesn’t look like an amateur production (I almost said like it was done by a 12 year old, but there are lots of 12 year olds who can do a far better job creating videos than most adults), trying to keep everybody who shows up to help six feet apart (which isn’t always successful from what I’ve seen, but that’s another story), trying to figure out how to connect with the people who’ve been watching worship services online, and trying to figure out how to care for people when there are so many restrictions in place.
Plus, each pastor has probably had more than enough Zoom meetings to watch, as well as to lead. On top of that, there are so many opinions out there about what’s safe and what’s not safe, what’s overblown and what’s underplayed.
While there may be exceptions, your pastor is tired. Be kind to them. Send them a note to express your appreciation. Encourage them to take some time off. Please don’t say, “Why do you need any vacation? You’ve just had two months off.” (It’s not funny, and it’s not true.) You could even offer to preach for them, so they could have a break. Please give them a break. This has been a tough two months, and to be honest, I don’t think there’s really an end in sight.
2) I have a lot of respect for Cindy Kuhlman. She serves as one of the co-moderators of the General Assembly, as well as the executive of Boston and of Northern New England Presbyteries. In a recent online forum, she said that she had been asking these questions, “Do we want to use the resources of time, talent, and treasure available to us to figure out protocols and practicalities for opening buildings in a way that might help people stay safe but will not be guaranteed, or do we want to use the resources of time, talent, and treasure available to us to be the body of Christ dispersed and deployed until it is safe for all people to return to our buildings without restrictions? Which is more faithful?”
With these questions, she articulates far better than I could what I’ve been thinking. Why are we putting people at risk? Having worship wearing masks, having worship without congregational singing, having worship without hugs, without handshakes, without any kind of fellowship, any kind of food, or even any coffee? I say this even though I’m not a coffee drinker. Is worship like that really worth it? Do we really want to hassle people about wearing masks and where they should sit? Are we going to be able to sufficiently clean our sanctuaries, our bathrooms, our hallways? Plus, whether we like it or not, the heating and air conditioning systems in our buildings may well be part of the problem. This article was an eye opener for me.
So, what’s a better use of our time: trying to have a worship service in person that has so many restrictions and that may well put people at risk or trying to strengthen our online worship service that keeps people safe and connects with people beyond our current membership?
3) As many of you may have experienced, my email has been hacked, and I want to apologize for that, although I don’t think I’ve done anything to allow or encourage it to happen. I’m not sure if it’s the same person who keeps trying to trick my contacts into sending them gift cards or if it’s different people who are sending out similar messages. Our IT folks don’t seem able or willing to do anything about that. Please know that I cannot imagine myself ever asking anyone for a favor through email. The only thing I can really imagine myself asking is for your church to send in its per capita and mission giving. Please do that. Just keep the gift cards for yourself or your family.