I’ve been involved in several Facebook chats, Zoom calls, and email conversations with clergy from across the U.S. and around the world in these weeks of Covid-19. In these interactions—and through general observation of news, church websites, and Facebook posts, I’ve noted a few distinct types of pandemic pastors.
The “Lentiest Lent” Pastor
This pastor finds great spiritual significance in our current Covid trials. She understands that, like Jesus during Holy Week, we are experiencing a dark time of introspection, moving toward certain death and destruction, forced to deal with many people who do not understand the gravity of the situation. Her Easter sermon will be somber, explaining that even when the resurrection came, Jesus’ followers were cowering in relative isolation, disoriented and depressed. And, you know, hope in the face of fear and life out of despair and all that.
The “(Not So) Reluctant Televangelist” Pastor
This pastor very quickly adapted weekly worship for the computer screen. She has figured out the best lighting and microphone set-up. She just needs one more take to get her sermon right (or at least get a version without the cat’s tail swishing across the screen). And even though she never learned it in seminary, she is quickly figuring out how to edit audio and visual files like a pro. Plus, there’s Facebook live which is soooo easy! In fact, maybe her people need to hear from her more than once a week. How about daily video reflections?
The “Apostle Paul Wanna Be” Pastor
This pastor is heartbroken to be separated from her people! She prays angst-ridden prayers for them morning, noon, and night. She writes them lengthy emails about God, Christ, the church, and about how much she misses them and wishes they could be together. She may even be writing hand-written notes to each church member (without, of course, licking the envelope flaps) and putting them in a mailbox (with, of course, gloved hands).
The “Case Worker for Jesus” Pastor
This pastor calls all of her people at least once a week to see how they are feeling and whether they need toilet paper (. . . oh, and spiritual stuff too). She does grocery shopping for the elderly, impromptu counselling texts with stressed out teenagers, and helps parents figure out their kids’ school work and technology. She has established new, streamlined benevolence policy protocols to meet increased needs and may or may not be spending portions of her own paycheck to buy grocery store gift cards for people who have lost their jobs.
The “This is the Way We’ve Always Done It (Except on the Computer)” Pastor
This pastor “shelters in place” in her office if at all possible. She is available on Zoom during her regular office hours. She has kept original meeting times for all Bible studies, youth groups, and committee meetings—they just meet on Zoom now. And worship is filmed in the sanctuary with a skeleton crew of musicians and worship leaders (standing six feet apart, of course). The organist plays and the few folks there sing with gusto. The pastor sits on the steps of the chancel and gives the children’s sermon and preaches in her full robe from the pulpit. (And unlike the Televangelist, she never cheats by wearing yoga pants with her clericals on Zoom calls.)
The “Zoom-a-Holic” Pastor
This extrovert pastor not only misses her people, she misses her colleagues! If the local clergy group has a Zoom gathering, she is there. If her denominational clergy group has a Zoom gathering, she is there. A Facebook clergy group virtual meet-up? A seminary class “reunion”? A workshop about online worship practices, Covid-19 protocols, or how to use Zoom? She is THERE. In fact, she should probably schedule a Zoom clergy lunch group—just so people can check in.
The “New Opportunity!” Pastor
This pastor is a bit like the “Lentiest Lent” pastor with all the God and Jesus stuff–but cheerful. She assures all who will listen that, while God is not causing this pandemic, God is with us through it and possibly leading us into new and exciting ways of being church! How might we use some of these new on-line practices and technologies even when we go back to meeting in person? And have you thought about stay-at-home orders as a kind of enforced Sabbath? What an opportunity to relax, spend time with family, and appreciate the many gifts God has given to us!
Maybe you are one of these pastors. Or a combination of a few. Or none at all. (I’m a bit of a Zoom-a-Holic mixed with a little New Opportunity! in danger of veering toward Televangelist now that I’m learning how to do video.)
Whatever type of pandemic pastor you are, please hear this: We are all being the pastors we are called to be for the people God has called us to serve right now. (UNLESS you are a “Put the Lord your God to the Test” pastor telling your people they should gather in large numbers to prove that God will protect them from Covid 19. In which case, you are killing people and Jesus is not happy.)
If you are helping the church be church at a distance; if you are loving your people without being physically with them; if you are trying to communicate the peace and hope of our faith within and beyond your congregation; if you are taking care of yourself and making it through your days—then however you are doing it, you are doing it right; whatever type of pastor you are, you are the right type of pastor; whatever you are doing, it is good and it is enough.
So blessings to you all in this holiest of Holy weeks we’ve ever holied. And may the peace of Christ be with you.
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