Sooner or later we will be meeting in person again. This has been the topic of many, many articles in the church world. What will it look like? Who will come? What does the near-future hold? Let’s use this month’s worship theme, imagination, to look ahead.
In this article, which is the basis for a conversation the Leadership Development Committee is leading on Monday night at 7pm (contact James Cassara for the Zoom link), there are 5 predictions that many people are making about that future:
- In person doesn’t necessarily mean in our building(s).
- In-person attendance in the building will be a [lower] percentage of your real church.
- You’ll use the building to reach people online, not use online to get people in the building.
- In-person attendance will probably become more infrequent church attendance.
- Digital church will be more of a front door and a side door than a back door.
A different, short article makes similar points:
- Many people may not come back to Sunday morning services. In fact, plan on attendance dropping by at least half of what it was before COVID in many places. That’s ok, but it will require a new imagination about what sustainable ministry looks like going forward. Online church is here to stay. Sunday morning is not the end-all and be-all. Now you can be a seven-day-a-week church, a community unleashed in the world to reweave the generative relationships that hold us together as neighbors and friends.
- Belonging is being redefined beyond membership. Given that we can now participate in seemingly countless ways, membership is a less useful concept to describe how one belongs to a community. It’s helpful only in describing governance and voting. It’s less meaningful as a descriptor of the scale of people aligned around your church’s mission. Words like “participants,” “partners,” and “investors” may prove more productive.
- We will need new organizational and staffing structures. Most churches were staffed for a time that is not coming back. We will need to reimagine our staffing needs, capacities, and goals. For many, this will not lead to massive layoffs but rather a redefinition of roles that more authentically aligns with the work to be done.
So what does this mean for UUCA? We already know for sure that we will possibly livestream but for sure video-record our worship services. What equipment and staffing do we need for that? Will we still hold 2 services on Sunday mornings? Will RE look the same on Sunday mornings? Will people be willing to attend if they still have to wear masks and social distance (though with vaccines around, things should be safer—but safe enough to resume life as it was?) Will people be willing to attend coffee hour outside? (We tried this right when the Welcome Project finished (when we got the new front patio) and no one went out there.) If we do decide that we will be doing way more meeting outside, what infrastructure do we need to support that (i.e., shade coverings, seating)? How might we choose to use our buildings differently? Can we/should we offer programming for people who will NEVER become “members?”
And all this happens WHILE we have a new minister AND we apply ourselves to the work of anti-racism. Sheesh! Exciting. Scary. Intimidating. Energizing.
I’m sure there are more questions (questions are easy, answers are harder). But for right now, I want UUCA to THINK BIG!!!! Imagine! Dream! Go beyond what’s “possible.” Who do we want to be next?
Linda Topp, Director of Administration