In April, the author Arundhati Roy wrote this:
“Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality,” trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
Stewardship during the coronavirus pandemic has taken on a whole new perspective. Congregations are taking this urgent moment to change—how they worship, connect, minister, and function financially. Stewardship of the pandemic means learning how to adapt and how to be generous in new, relevant, and critical ways. Which means more than just worshiping online or utilizing e-giving technology. These are important innovations for us to grasp, yes, but there is so much more going on that congregations need to tend to.
So as I live with Roy’s words, I wonder how can we as congregations navigate this rupture in history and make our way through the portal to a new, vibrant future? It goes beyond seeing this time as a momentary glitch until we can return to “normal.” It requires our ability to use this minimal time to assess where we have been and radically envision where we are going in order to take advantage of the opportunities of this moment in history to change what needs to be changed in order to thrive in the future. Here are a few questions to stir our imaginations:
- What is the “meaningful work” we are discovering in this time of pandemic?
- How successfully are we engaging it and Sharing the Story?
- What is being asked of us as people of faith during this rupture in history?
- What innovative mission and ministry are being inspired by events happening in our country?
- What do we need to leave behind in order to navigate the portal to a more vital, vibrant future in our churches, communities, and country?
- How can we nurture the imagination of our congregations, pastors, and church leaders to create this new future?
These are times none of us have ever navigated, which means there is no map. No expert. No clear path. Stewardship of this point history is an endeavor that requires our generosity, our investment in creativity and community, and our willingness to follow the winds of the Spirit into a future of God’s imagining. But know this, as I have been saying throughout these months, though we may be apart, you are never alone. We can make our way together. Resource: Arundhati Roy.
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.