Justice. Mercy. Faith.
Through The Christian Citizen, we seek to shape a mind among American Baptists and others on matters of public concern by providing a forum for diverse voices living and working at the intersection of faith and politics, discipleship and citizenship.
Not to put too fine a theological point on it, but perhaps getting back to where you once belonged is as much about where you are going as it is about where you have been.
So often, ministry is treated as something that ordained people do, but the priesthood of all believers tells us that everyone is called to ministry, and that churches ought to spend considerable time developing everyone’s gifts in ministry and helping them articulate their various vocations. That commitment is centuries old, but it is only in this present pandemic that I am seeing its promise truly come to life. It continues to enrich my own ministry to see it as a shared endeavor with congregants, and I am finding new contours of my own call in the wake of the pandemic. For that, I’m thankful.
The Thanksgiving holiday gives us the opportunity to pay attention collectively to what we are thankful for. Thanksgiving automatically puts your attention on what is right, rather than what is wrong.
Once a year is not enough, however, for communities or individuals to practice shifting attention to the many things that are right. Even in this challenging time, every day can give the opportunity to gratefully notice what is working—in the world, in your communities, in your own life. This doesn’t mean ignoring challenges or the suffering of others. Our brains automatically register the negative, however, so it takes extra effort to notice the positive.
Practicing gratitude is linked to physical health benefits, including improved sleep, lower blood pressure, motivation to exercise more, better control of glucose levels and improved immunity, to name a few. Studies have also found mental, psychological, and spiritual health benefits of gratitude, including increased self-confidence, resilience, optimism, and patience.
I have thought about many futuristic stories from my reading and watching science fiction, and the maxim “faith manages” (from the 1990s television show Babylon 5) might just be the thing that has got me through the pandemic to date.
Responding to COVID-19
The church has been significantly affected by the lingering impacts of COVID-19. The COVID era and its related impacts are here to stay. We would do well as pastors to understand how we can be most effective as we lead.
While we live in a democracy where we are entitled to exercise our “unalienable rights,” public safety has not registered on the hearts, minds, and souls of some Americans. While our rights are indeed important, we need to be alive and healthy to fight for these rights. May we find it in our collective hearts to truly be our brother’s keeper in our efforts to keep one another safe. May we look beyond the narrow view of “rights” to see the broad perspective of public safety.
The most natural way to make restoration possible is to carry the sacred discoveries found within the Eucharist to one’s neighbor as a matter of course. The forgiveness that can come so easily at the table is transferable to each person within one’s purview during the course of the week. It might take special effort to follow through, especially during our current pandemic times, but it could be the only way to fully realize this ordinance of the church. Jesus certainly managed to do it, and humankind has been charged to imitate him.
The struggle to care for the integrity of our creation cannot be waged and sustained apart from the struggle for justice amongst people. Biblically, justice and a spirituality of ecology are linked to each other in one ecosystem.
Books have been wonderful companions through these isolating months. Here are some books I have found to be particularly helpful in the last uncertain year.
Rethinking what it means to gather for worship—One Baptist church considers not returning to the building
At the South Yarra Community Baptist Church (SYCBC) in Melbourne, Australia, moving worship and congregational life online during our city’s four-month hard lockdown proved so successful that there is now a serious conversation about the possibility of continuing it and not returning to physically gathered worship.
The church may become informed on resources for poor families, such as federal aids, and become a part of collaborations to create resources for immigrant families since they do not have access to federal aid. The church may also create informal networks among congregations and social agencies, and work with social services to stay in touch with children who have had to go into foster care.
Informándose sobre recursos para familias pobres: ayudas federales, etc. Siendo parte de colaboraciones para crear recursos para familias inmigrantes ya que estos no tienen acceso a ayudas federales. La iglesia puede crear redes informales entre congregaciones y agencias sociales. También podemos trabajar con servicios sociales para mantener contacto con niños que han tenido que ir a cuido de crianza.
CDC resources for community & faith leaders
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has resources to help you plan, prepare and respond to community transmission of coronavirus disease including interim guidance for faith and community leaders.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies resources for congregational response to COVID-19
Information for American Baptists and American Baptist congregations about best practices to help reduce the spread of the virus in general as well as in congregational settings.
ministrElife community for faith leaders
Find resources, share best practices, and stay connected to other ministry professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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