What they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work.
This may be the easiest column I’ve every written. All I need to do is reflect for a moment on last week’s WinterFest, and I see abundant proof of Bruce Reyes-Chow’s assertion in his keynote presentation: that God has already given us more than enough to do the work of God’s realm. If not obvious, the corollary is that the abundance is there, and it’s up to us to see it.
stop being surprised by how well you and the churches you serve have done during the pandemic
Apparently I am one who did not see it, because I was struck by Bruce’s first statement:
(If you want to see Bruce’s slides, go to https://www.slideshare.net/breyeschow/slideshelf#. We will make the recording of his presentation available in a couple of weeks.)
Immediately I realized that my surprise was a result of low expectations of what we are willing or able to do—or, worse, what God is willing or able to do through us.
But when we are open to the gifts that God offers to us, the abundance is amazing.
The most obvious abundance was shown through the EEE (Education, Equipping, and Empowerment) Committee, who organized WinterFest. They were the ones who responded to the restrictions of COVID-19 by deciding to change our 6-hour Saturday event to a weeklong extravaganza, and to record the sessions as we build up an on-line archive of trainings. All the sessions were recorded and will be made available later this month; look to future Monday Morning Updates for the link.
This video library will go along with worship resources that were first developed for World Communion Sunday, and more will be developed for the Easter season. (More details on that later.)
As it turns out, the majority of participants joined us every night, so that it started to feel like a weeklong all-Presbytery retreat. And because one of the themes of this WinterFest was “Let’s learn from each other” (do you remember that wonderful promotional video that Becca Bateman made?), many of the sessions were led by our own people, which gave all of us a glimpse into the wonderful creativity and faithfulness of our church leaders.
This turned out to be a timely pivot from the crisis of grieving what we were used to and wondering how to do church without meeting in person, to dreaming what we will be and wondering how to do church in person while also extending our reach and mission through online connections. We don’t want to shut down this new era of evangelism, moving beyond the confines and exclusivity of physical gatherings, as we consider what we will bring back, and what new ways of church we will continue in the coming “hybrid” world of the church.
For myself, I would like to retain the flexibility of allowing for remote connections, and the opportunities that arise from that, including broader participation and the ability to share resources and ideas (ask Millason Dailey and the Calvary folk about ways to keep connected with church members and the community, or ask Peter Tan-Gatue about smartphone prayers!). My biggest hope is to retain the permission to make mistakes as we try new things, and the natural feedback loop that I trust has been infused with grace. And as we saw with WinterFest, let us have eyes to see and appreciate the gifts of our own people, if we give them a chance to share them.
And let us always give thanks. For WinterFest, we give thanks to lead organizer Pat Martinez-Miller, along with other EEE Committee members Jennifer Ackerman, Sam Bang, Shawna Banks, Becca Bateman, Deidra Goulding, and Peter Tan-Gatue. Thanks to the many presenters, the 100 or so attendees, and witnesses to our connectional church like Bruce Reyes-Chow and Alice Ridgill who joined us from as far away as the Bay Area and North Carolina. And many, many thanks to incoming Stated Clerk for Administration, Ally Lee, who as EEE member created and managed the coordinating work and technology platform which allowed WinterFest to blossom without a hitch. Ally is taking this week as study leave, as she prepares for her expanded clerk responsibilities. Please let me know if you need anything this week, so she has time to focus.
As we look ahead to our hybrid future (not now—the PEC guidance to plan to worship out of the buildings at least through Easter holds; Bruce Reyes-Chow shared that his church in Palo Alto will not hold worship in their building until September), let us never forget how God provides, in abundance. And let us always look to God for guidance, and look to each other to see what God can do through us!
Blessings in all the ups and downs of life,