The "New Normal" - What's Coming Next?

Congregational Re-Opening Plans

It has been remarkable how congregations across Mennonite Church Eastern Canada have adapted to the challenges of Covid-19. Online services via Zoom and YouTube (or a mix of both) have created memorable, and perhaps surprising, social and spiritual moments for many. Perhaps you have seen new people on your Sunday morning calls. Other church members might be noticeably absent – nothing truly replaces in-person, Sunday morning worship. Your congregation might be considering opening up now or in September. There are many considerations; we offer the following suggestions as you discern together.

  • Celebrate what has worked well these past few months.
    As of July, many regions in Ontario have entered Phase Three. Quebec activities are gradually resuming, also in phases. New Brunswick is currently at a Yellow alert level. These are milestones worth celebrating! As churches, we have modified our worship practices to avoid social contact, and we have contributed to the slowing of the virus. Many of our experimental worship and meeting practices can inform future community-building and worship planning.
     
  • Look to others for advice. Will you share your congregational re-opening plan?
    In many ways, little has changed since MCEC issued this statement urging caution on June 10, 2020. This page has links that you may find helpful. Please look to your local health authority for guidelines. Each congregation needs to make its own decisions about gatherings, moving slowly might be a good way to balance all of our spiritual, social, and health and safety needs.

    Churches across MCEC are developing their own plans. We would like to gather those plans as examples to share of how congregations are navigating next steps. Those examples are posted below. If you are willing to share your congregational plan, please forward then to mcec@mcec.ca.
     
  • Flexibility is key.
    Things change so quickly. You may wish to consider the following suggestions as you formulate your plan:
     
    • Blend in-person and online services.
    • Plan your re-opening several weeks in advance; do not commit to a re-opening date months in advance.
    • Modify your service to reduce physical contact. Consider postponing special services and shared contact rituals, such as communion, passing an offering plate, and sharing a sign of peace.
    • Consider alternate types of worship beyond singing.
       
  • You are not alone.
    The Federal Government has a risk mitigation tool to help make your gatherings safe. Mennonite World Conference has a twelve-step plan for opening your church doors.
     
  • The practice of healthy discernment is key.
    Individuals within your congregation may have differing levels of comfort regarding what is safe. It is difficult to balance all of our human needs. Spiritual longing, social interaction, personal and public safety, and making a joyful noise in praise of our God are all natural and important values. These values may sometimes conflict and compete. As always, community discernment is tough, but also rewarding. Continue to discern together, knowing that community discernment is sometimes messy, but is also one of the best ways to determine together God’s will. 

Celebrate together. Make a flexible plan. Talk to one another. May God continue to guide and lead us as we extend the love, grace and peace of Jesus Christ in our neighbourhoods.


May 2020 Pastoral Conversation

A peer conversation exploring ministry in a time of pandemic.

Panelists:  Jim Brown, Kara Carter, Mark Diller-Harder, & Nancy Frey
Moderator:  Al Rempel

Questions:

  1. As you wonder about when and how the congregation may start its community life again, what fears and concerns do you think you will need to address to take initial steps?
  2. Public Health officials are already inviting businesses to look at different innovations for how they can adjust to the needs for social distancing.  What are initial ideas you are considering as we look at the next steps?  (Parking lot church?; Hybrid model of online and small group)
  3. What are the assets of your congregational system that you hope to draw on as you begin to shape the next steps of congregational life?
  4. Breakout Room Discussion: What ideas have the panelists prompted for you as you consider next steps for your congregational setting?

Following this conversation a number of pastors asked if there could be a place where we would collect what pastors’ are finding as helpful resources and articles that others might benefit from.  The chat with links to article that were brought are listed below. If you would wish to contribute or find other resources please comment or review comments on this article.

We are certainly all in this together and finding ways to help each other along the way is the character and spirit of our church – thanks for the significant ministry you are doing.

Edited chat conversation: