Our initial conversation was organized around the question: How can congregations proactively and positively face the challenges and opportunities represented by the Covid-19 pandemic?
This broad theme will be focused in three areas:
First, given the current Covid health crisis and the social justice consciousness that is emerging in communities around the country, churches are dealing with issues they have not had to deal with before, and pastors are, many times, under increased pressure to develop solutions to how these kinds of developments affect their congregations. But, can—or should—pastors and other leaders to seek to solve the problems that arise in times of crises? How might we adjust leadership and congregational culture to meet the challenges and opportunities we face in a crisis situation? Professor Quentin P. Kinnison will lead us in a discussion about how to rethink and reimagine pastoral leadership.
Second, many church leaders and members are now experiencing trauma in ways that they have never felt before. Leaders and members alike feel the pain of not meeting in person, and that the very existence of their congregational community is increasingly dependent on external factors. Thus, how can we heal from trauma and in the process become more resilient, both personally and corporately? Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis will help us to think about trauma and how to respond, heal and grow in response to traumatic life events.
Finally, recent events have forced a new reality on all segments of society, the church included. While some churches are beginning to meet in person again (hopefully with appropriate Covid related precautions), much of their work has been curtailed because of the limitations imposed by our current health situation. In response, some churches are trying to figure out ways to collaborate or at least develop relationships with other churches to share knowledge and resources, while also trying to figure out new ways of being a community online.
Thus, how can we develop new, and nurture established relationships, despite current limitations? Further, how can we build these relationships in to deeper collaborative efforts that will benefit all participants? Amanda Quraishi will provide ideas and principles for developing online communities, which seems increasingly important in a time of separation. And, Eric Marsh, who has been successful in developing multiple collaborative initiatives among churches, other religious organizations, and the public sector in Long Beach, will help us think about moving from competition and distance to collaboration.
Our panelists were:
Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University
Dr. Richard Flory, Senior Director of Research and Evaluation at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture
Quentin P. Kinnison, Chair of the Biblical & Religious Studies Division and Associate Professor of Christian Ministry at Fresno Pacific University
Eric Marsh, Associate Pastor at Parkcrest Christian Church and Director of Long Beach Church Collective
Rev. Najuma Smith-Pollard, Assistant Director of Community and Public Engagement at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture
Amanda Quraishi, Digital & Social Media Director for the Texas Association of School Boards and Founder/Director of the Institute for Digital Civic Culture
The Reimagining Church Initiative is supported by a grant from The Lilly Endowment.