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Emerging from the pandemic takes planning

Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.”

Mike Denton – Conference Minister

Although day-to-day planning in the middle of a natural disaster, at some point, it becomes crucial to begin to shift some of that planning energy into visioning energy.

It’s been repeatedly said that we’re going to find ourselves changed through the pandemic. However, those changes don’t all need to be passive ones. We also have the opportunity to center down a bit, listen to what God needs, and make plans to respond.

I’ve been praying and thinking about this quite a bit, and I keep coming back to three main ideas.

Hold public rituals: As we transition towards being near each other again, ceremonies that publicly recognize what happened in private will be welcomed and helpful. For example:

This year

has taught us

that the world


the church’s work


• Candlelight vigils to remember all those funerals that occurred in private.

• Mass wedding recessionals where couples are invited to come to the church, have some sort of prayer together, then—couple by couple—walk out the church’s door to the cheers of loved ones.

• Services of anointing to bless those who are suffering from long-term COVID and COVID’s other debilitating effects.

• Graduation parades where all those who graduated from, well, anything, are invited to wear their school colors and march through the middle of town.

Get the idea? Making room for these sorts of public rituals is one way the church can serve now and establish a role for itself into the future.

Use consent-based decision making: During the beginning of this crisis, some difficult decisions were readily handed over to local church leaders and pastors.

In an emergency, that’s as it should be. Doing otherwise would have made as much sense as establishing a committee to put out a fire. As we enter the second half of the pandemic, setting a vision for what we may need to become will take greater and greater participation and respectful mutuality, otherwise known as consent.

Circle Forward, the organization I think teaches about consent-based governance the best, makes it clear that this doesn’t mean that every person has a say in every single decision. It means that a range of decisions that serve a particular purpose or mission are entrusted to a person or committee. 

As long as the person or committee stays within those boundaries, the wider body supports the decisions made and actions taken. If there are ever concerns or disagreements about the scope of responsibilities or the situation changes, consent is renegotiated. 

This approach takes the congregational structure’s expectation of covenant and autonomy and helpfully adds solidarity to the mix, an element our covenant-to-autonomy dualism has been missing.

Solidarity also helps us avoid the consumerist approach that co-opts this kind of duality. Sometimes, we have fallen into the trap of demanding or wanting to be served by covenantal systems in a way that protects our sense of autonomy. Adding solidarity to the mix helpfully messes this all up. It reasserts the obligations that come with just, fair and consensual relationships.

Commit to a deeply-rooted approach to injustice: It’s not unusual that there are multiple causes among UCC church members. That’s normal, healthy and good, but we frequently approach issues at more of the grasstop level than the grassroots level. If we dive deeply enough into any one issue or another, and we’ll start to discover that the roots of injustice are deeply intertwined and even grafted together.

Now is an excellent time to better understand the intertwined roots’ reality and boldly make plans for uprooting them. The pandemic has made some of these intertwined realities more straightforward than they’ll ever be again in our lifetimes. We must not lose this moment of pausing to plan for seasons of acting strategically.

If the last year hasn’t taught us anything else, it’s that the world needs the church’s work. Together we have comforted people, fed people and helped connect people. By serving God’s people, we have deepened our service to God. Let us continue to live into the vision that God is making plain before us.


Pacific NW Conference United Church of Christ News © April-May 2021


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