I have watched great organisations, and local congregations scrambling to produce on-line material over the last couple of weeks. Many will admit it’s stretched them, but from my observational position they have all risen well to deal with the situation as best as they can, given the constraints of technology, knowledge of its capabilities and use by both ministerial teams and congregations.
Many are trying to include those without technology. Also, bigger questions are being asked as to whether recreating what we had in the pre-covid world is replicable on line, and if there are different ways of doing community or faith on line? Great question. How do we deal with the children? How do we educate parents in the transference of faith? a question that those involved in Child and Family Ministry have been asking for over a decade but which has been unimportant to the wider church until now. Braden wrote a great open letter on this theme. https://victas.uca.org.au/to-the-church-post-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR1c1AWAX3QIdBflmGlf3ZXhrWFBxDepCzYlShEpEFQCiZSLa7dH91pGWNw
But there seems to me to be one other group that we are not addressing. And that is the “single” faith parent, and no I don’t mean, the socially single family, I mean the family who attend our congregations without the other spouse. Two parent households that do not share the same faith convictions.
These are the families who will not be gathered around the livestream service together. These are the families where the differing beliefs of the partners would have been evident in the formation of their relationship or where one parent has come to, or fallen away from faith during their partnership. Each family would have made their own decisions regarding the spiritual formation of the children, but they would be renegotiating this issue, along with all the other negotiations that have been happening in homes around the world.
This can lead to increased tensions in these families, OR they could lead to the advancement of faith discussions and decisions. How are you helping these families deal with either situation?
As we race to supply services, have we addressed how we deal with those who are searching for faith?
Do you have strong pastoral care, or communication lines that stay in touch with all your families?
And what about the child who is searching for faith? What are you offering them and how are you making that a safe on-line environment?
I have asked more questions but not solved any. Because the answers are also situational.
Assuming that all your efforts will be acceptable in a multifaith environment, is to fail those families that are in that situation. Find out what they will need, ask the questions rather than assuming that you have the answer, or solution. If there is one thing I have also noticed it’s that the consultation process has been lost as congregations try to move their physical activities on line. The wrong people are leading and those who are familiar with “living online” such as the ill, the travellers, those with disabilities are again being overlooked by those in the “physical congregation”. Let this new opportunity to be church be an inclusive one, or maybe one with multi access points. We are so use to the spiritual model of the labyrinth, one entry and exit point that maybe now is the time to explore faith formation as one of multiple entry and exit points. We have the technology.
With a background in the Wesleyan tradition, I’m encouraged by the story of being refused the capacity to preach in the Church of England, John took his preaching beyond the constraints of the buildings and took it into the fields. Christ saw the ill, those outside of society, the shamed and oppressed. As we enter this brand-new world, may we see the opportunities to not let anyone be left behind.