What if We Are on the Road to Emmaus?
What if we're missing the signs of vibrant ministry because they don't fit our existing ideas of church?
Carla Leon is Innovation & Special Projects Co-ordinator for the EDGE – A Network for Ministry Development.
When I was younger I used to struggle with this particular story. Jesus has died and risen again. But when his friends on the road to Emmaus see him, they don’t know that it is him. How could Jesus’ best friends not recognize him? They had spent all of that time with him travelling, learning, and being his family. If COVID has taught us anything, it is how to be with the same people for a long time and all the things that we learn about them when stuck together. So this story always puzzled me. I couldn’t believe it! Not recognize him?! It meant to me that either they weren’t actually Jesus’ friends OR that they didn’t believe that he could be arisen. Now I don’t think it was the former, as there was much love there. So it must be that they couldn’t take that leap of faith to actually look at him and see him for who he was!
Stittsville United Church – The SPARK
They wanted to envision who Stittsville United Church could be. So, they put out a sign and invited people for free coffee so that they could have conversations with the neighbourhood and determine what might be needed and where there might be some positive energy. The first day, no one came for coffee. The second day, a woman poked her head in and asked, was that sign serious? After that they had many conversations with the neighbourhood to understand what might be of interest to experiment with and to gain a better understanding of their own role in the neighbourhood. In Ottawa a couple years back every single school in Ottawa had tablets and laptops in schools. This got the church thinking, "Well, our Sunday School is just outdated!" So they decided to start by mixing up Sunday School. They recognized that their minister’s gift and spark was Sunday morning worship and he gave a great sermon. But everyone in the community of faith had a gift or a spark, and maybe we could unleash that in people sharing their gift during Sunday School rather than the traditional Sunday School they had been running. A local baker came to share their gift. An engineer did a Lego day. A local artist did painting classes. Sunday School grew to Sunday afternoons, Wednesday evenings, and more and more people wanting to share their gift too. One of the programs that had the most energy was their paint nights. They had so much interest that they had to have shifts, with up to 300 people coming through during an evening. Even with COVID-19 and Zoom, this is continuing with huge murals being attached to fences in the town to inspire hope throughout this time. Watch the story There are some other stories that show that we may be on the Road to Emmaus:
You may have heard that the number of people who attend church on Sunday is declining and that that means the church is dying. I remember speaking to a community of faith that told me that they had a small congregation with only 50 people on average on a Sunday. We continued to speak and it turned out that they had a meditation circle of over 300 people that gathered for reflection. I was awestruck and very excited about the energy that new ministry was taking. According to the community of faith where this was happening, this was not considered church. It was a great outreach, but not church. So this brings me back to the Road to Emmaus. Why couldn’t they recognize him? Is it that they weren’t taking the leap of faith to see who he really was? Is it like the last example, where the new and vibrant ministry was right before their eyes but they couldn’t see it as it didn’t fit their existing model of church.
What if we are already on the road to Emmaus? But we are not able to see that the Spirit is not only walking with us, but walking before us.
This was first published on the United Church of Canada’s website: https://united-church.ca/blogs/round-table/what-if-we-are-road-emmaus
What We Are Reading
Religious Canadians Praying for Return to In-Person Worship, But Won’t Forsake Online Services in Future
Angus Reid Institute
As congregations think and plan ahead to life after the pandemic, what do the emerging data reveal on the impact of the pandemic on various aspects of congregational life? In addition to checking out one of the dozen-plus studies on this subject linked from our website, we encourage church leaders to carefully read the featured Canadian-based report here, released on April 1. This report provides comprehensive data on religious and spiritual practices, perceptions, and experiences during the pandemic, along with expectations coming out of the pandemic. This report also includes variations across theological sectors, plus perceptions regarding government restrictions on faith communities. We anticipate that some of these findings might surprise you, hopefully shaping your thoughts and plans moving forward.
Resources for Church Leaders
It's About Time: Managing Time to Prioritize Mission
Tuesday, May 11th, 2021 - 2pm Eastern
Calling all Pastors/Parish priests! What would your parish look like if 80% of your time each week was dedicated to ministry essential to the priesthood? Are you able to put the majority of your time each week into preaching, the sacraments and leading? Join DR coach, Matt Regitz, with other priests around North America to explore practical ways to reprioritize your time towards mission. Register here
Risk Assessment for Churches
Operating your church more safely in a time of respiratory infectious diseases can be a challenge. The ARCC is a set of tools to help church leaders improve their policies, assess their risk, learn more about controlling diseases, and know how to support people's mental health. Instill confidence in yourself, your congregation, the community and those in authority by visiting churcharcc.com
Resources for Safer Church Re-Opening
Want to increase confidence in your congregation and community; to increase your knowledge; and to share what you've learned over the past year?
Join Dr. Bridget Stirling (epidemiologist and former missionary), a team of public health specialists, and church leaders from around the world in the ARCC.
The Application to Reduce Communicable Diseases in Churches (ARCC) is a program that increases safety through Risk self-assessments and guidance, church-specific training and an interactive forum. Visit us at stirlingharmston.com
Researching the Impacts of Covid-19 on Congregations
Several research studies are emerging on the impacts of Covid-19 on congregations. Click Here to learn from these data-driven insights.