When this present moment becomes history, how will people know how your faith community responded? Will they know that many congrega¬tions quickly developed the capacity for online worship services—or even be able to watch our worship from their future position? Will they know which communities continued to supply food banks and provide housing for the home-less? Will you leave records reflecting the shift from pastoral visits to pastoral telephone calls and emails? It all comes down to how well you document these days.
Getting churches to capture this moment in time will be helpful not only for future generations. It will be also a chance for congregants to recall the immediate past and start working out what these challenging times have shown them about their own lives, as well as the inevitable travails and the graceful moments where the resilience of a local church was revealed.
Significant anniversaries provide an opportunity to take stock of where one has been and where one is headed. This month, I celebrate 25 years of ministry with American Baptist Home Mission Societies. While my portfolio has changed during that time, one constant has been my involvement with The Christian Citizen.
Everything beautiful in its time: COVID-19, mental health, and resilience in the Karen Baptist Churches in the United States
Members of the Karen ethnic group in Myanmar (formerly Burma) are no strangers to conditions that threaten their physical existence or inhibit their ability to think or reason freely. Thousands of Karen people were forced to flee their homes to escape violence, persecution, and war in the 20th century. The freedom they sought in Thai refugee camps left much to be desired, as they experienced degradation, restrictions on working and moving about, and food rations that often left them hungry and malnourished. The opportunity for some to immigrate to America, earlier this century, rekindled hope and dreams of better days. I interviewed 25 pastors in the Karen Baptist Churches in the United States (KBCUSA) to gain a glimpse of the challenges they are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rather than defending a traditional concept of community and common welfare in which individuals understand the connection between rights and duties, many who claim the conservative mantle substitute a doctrinaire individualism that ultimately benefits neither the individual nor society.
Through belief in Christ, the one who was born and lived among the marginalized, whose death was at the hands of the “powers that be” of this world, and whose resurrection, ascension, and promised return we take hope in, we learn to tell, and live out, a different story. The response of the faithful is not to turn a blind eye toward the sufferings of the world, nor to be willing or silently complicit partners to these sufferings taking root in political, economic, or social policies.
Hebrews 10:24-25 is a command to fellowship and to not stop gathering together as others have done. It is a command to encourage one another. How do we fulfill this biblical command while also following the local authorities’ command to “shelter in place” during these times? What is the role of the church during this historic moment? As some churches are grieving and others are calling this an opportunity for a revival, the inherent complexities of these questions and the reality of how one event can affect individuals differently are on full display.
Without negating or disregarding the significance of mothers (Mother’s Day was last month), fathers are critical to the family dynamic. The value of a father’s loving leadership is incalculable.
Father’s Day has arrived yet again, and no situation—no father—is perfect. Perhaps you have an imperfect relationship right now with an imperfect father. What’s your legacy? Visible or invisible, it’s likely there, but you might not have a full grasp of it until he’s gone. And that’s okay. Believe me, you’ll know it when it is upon you, and then it will be your legacy.
What Father’s Day should do for people of faith is open up space for us to consider the ways that earthly fatherhood does and does not map onto our experience of God. There will undoubtedly be points of slippage between our experiences of being fathered or being fathers and our experience of God’s love. For those for whom there is much distance between their personal experience and the term Father, I would invite them to find and use different terms for God.