It is important for congregations to move forward with both Congregational Meetings and the nominating process, officer elections, officer training, and ordination/installation of officers. At the Session Record Review events in mid-October and early November, I shared with Clerks of Session the need for church sessions to revise their manuals of administrative operations to allow for electronic meetings. Suggested language and guidelines are posted here. These revisions allow a clear path for churches to continue to hold Congregational Meetings, accomplishing the work needed to fulfill the mission and ministry of the church. I am available to send a planning guide for Congregational Meetings; Clerks of Session and/or pastoral leaders can send me an email request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many churches elect their officers between September and December. I encourage congregations not to postpone a Congregational Meeting to elect officers. Sessions should follow their normal nominating process and call a Congregational Meeting to elect officers. Congregational meetings may be held by conference call, video conference call using a platform like Zoom, or a blended format. (See the document linked above.) Pre-pandemic practice following the election of officers should be respected; training may be offered through conference call, video conference call, or in person.
Following training and examination, churches should move forward with ordination and/or installation of officers. Ordination and installation can be accomplished using conference call or during a Zoom call, but leaders may want to consider a recorded segment that could be incorporated into a recorded worship service or shown using the screen share option.
No matter what choice is made (live during a conference call, live during a video conference call, or taped), the details should be well planned. It will be necessary for the Moderator to give the congregation instructions prior to the start of business. One needs to think through who and how constitutional questions will be answered. The new officers should definitely answer the questions addressed to them, but be prepared for delayed and random answers with many virtual formats, especially with Zoom. I suggest a designee to answer on behalf of the congregation, but there is nothing wrong with delayed and random answers from the congregation.
Zoom or another live format for ordination/installation allows the congregation to see those being ordained/installed. A recorded situation allows leaders to gather the pastoral leader, officers to be ordained/installed, and a representative(s) of the congregation in the sanctuary, or it could be done outside, weather permitting. Regardless of the choices made, leaders are encouraged to think through all of the details, including what may depend on visual clues.
Installations do not require laying on of hands, which makes things easier. Ordinations do require laying on of hands. Here are several ideas being shared for laying on of hands for installation or ordination: Create a mural on a wall behind folks being ordained/installed that features hand cut outs – members can be asked to send in cutouts of their hands. Other churches have created a stole or “collar” of hands, out of either paper or fabric, that signifies the laying on of hands. Both ideas could be used with folks who stand in as representatives of the congregation (Clerk of Session, a friend or family member who is a ruling elder).
The goal is to creatively replicate what takes places during an in-person ordination or installation.