Focused Church

Who knows why our Central East Region staff decided to schedule our congregational check-ins for February this year? What a surprising opportunity it turned out to be to see how congregations turn from crisis and overwhelm to resolve and commitment.

I happened to have planned a video call with DC area clergy for the day after the election. What a surprising crowd turned up. It seemed that everyone wanted to be together in an incredibly tender time. They were a shocked and overwhelmed lot. They were afraid for the vulnerable among us. They wondered how they would craft their Sunday message when they themselves were struggling. They wondered how to minister to both the devastated Democrats and the unseen but present Republicans. They were confused and hurting.

Contrast that day to what I found from my calls just three months later:

  • “Our pews are full of people seeking meaning and sustenance.”
  • “We used to have a scattershot approach to justice work. Now we’re really focusing.”
  • “Our stewardship campaign is going strong.”
  • “We used to fight over stupid things. Now we pull together.”

Folks, people and systems are resilient. We thought we had to make resilience happen, but it turns out that it happens on its own. That’s the nature of human recovery, and thank goodness for that.

What will our congregations do next with this focus and resolve? Will we breathe a sigh of relief and fade back to our old, perhaps less directed, perhaps less effective ways? Or will we learn the lessons these times have to teach?

I think we’ve just re-learned what focused church can do. It comforts and strengthens those who suffer and those who work hard at recovering. It is a place where love and compassion are planted and sprouted so that those who participate are at their best in the rest of the world. Church can serve as a countercultural beacon, declaring through words and action that no matter what happens out there, love wins in here.

Don’t forget that what you do matters, you are not alone, and your Central East Region team is here to help. May we keep the resolve and focus that have been hard won over the past few months. May we see our value more than we ever have, and use our power more than we ever did. May our churches be the shining light that both welcomes us home and lights our way forward.

Megan Foley, CER Regional Lead

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