Interim Ministry, COVID and Community

Now there’s a three-for-one Gordian knot if I ever saw one.  When a staff person writes a blog, I’m pretty sure there’s an unwritten rule that you don’t complain or whine (much) or lay guilt on folks or throw shade (I think I finally got the meaning of that new-to-me idiom right—took a while).  However, there seem to be times……

Without intending to do any of those three, here goes.

We have a new interim lead minister.  She’s pretty darn cool (have you HEARD some of her background stories?).  She has a very specific set of jobs to do to help US prepare for our called minister. One loop of that knot wonders how she can help us if she doesn’t KNOW us?

(Hey, did you know that there are “parts of a knot?”  I looked that up on the way to this metaphor.)

An elbow of that knot is COVID.  THAT turned what could have been a quite lovely meeting among new minister and congregants into a nightmare of Zoom and one-on-ones and lots of people not “tuning in” to either services or events or the website or eNews.  This creates what Rev. Cathy has referred to as her phantom congregation.

And then, how about a little bight that actually starts the knot–the need for community-by all humans as it turns out.

Here’s the kind of headline that scares staff members:  Churches face volunteer shortages, difficulty mobilizing congregants amid pandemic, experts warn.  Now that seems like a no-brainer because how could that NOT be true right now, but it IS a most difficult circumstance when trying to learn about your brand-new congregation.

And then there’s the article from long-time church consultant Lawrence Peers.  He writes,

Talking with another clergyperson recently, we bemoaned the current spike in COVID-19 infections and the Delta variant. Congregations were moving in the direction of “opening up” again for indoor worship and activities. All systems were go, it seemed.

But then many congregations, in an abrupt retreat, slowed down or modified reopening plans. The ink on books about the “post-pandemic church” was hardly dry as we found ourselves thinking about a possible longer arc of this health crisis.

Suddenly my colleague blurted out, “Maybe I don’t want to do this hard thing.”

The hardest thing for many clergy about this current situation is not knowing what to do or when to do it—or whether it will be enough.

When I was feeling overwhelmed by the current situation of reopening, I created a compass to help me channel my feelings of overwhelm into four directions:

  • Reconnect with one another and our wider community.
  • Rebound as we bounce back to increased levels of participation and service.
  • Redevelop all of our offerings as a highly inclusive, engaging multiplatform congregation.
  • Renew our commitment to our mission and our generous support of that mission.

This is what all of our staff are doing right now.  We’re all trying so hard to do all four of those things.  PLUS, as a congregation, we need to help Rev. Cathy help us.

So, here’s what I’m asking:  please, please try to do more with UU Asheville than you have in the past year.  I know it’s hard, you’re in a different rhythm now, who needs to “attend” an 11am service when you can watch it later (or never), I know you planned to come to that in-person event but then you forgot, or it didn’t feel right, or something else came up, but to steal a phrase from Charlie Marks, we really, really need you!

We need you to reconnect, bounce back to increased levels of participation and service, support our efforts as we offer in-person and online programs, and sort of summarizing it all, renew your commitment to our mission and your generous support of the mission with time, talent, and money.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration