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#PandemicPastoring report paperwork a ‘new period in ministry’

(RNS) — In 2020, attendance was hovering at Emerywood Baptist Church in Excessive Level, North Carolina. Giving was regular. The church was on the point of ship greater than 25 individuals on a mission journey.

Then got here the COVID-19 pandemic.

After which — simply as Emerywood had canceled all its plans and adjusted to outside worship to gradual the unfold of the virus — got here the homicide of George Floyd and the summer time’s mass protests in opposition to racial violence.

Because the Black senior minister of a predominantly white Southern church with an deal with on Nation Membership Lane, Timothy Peoples mentioned, he advised his congregation, “You possibly can’t name me ‘pastor’ and ‘n—–‘ on the similar time.”

In the midst of all of it, the minister mentioned, he had a breakdown.

Eileen Campbell-Reed. Courtesy photograph

Peoples isn’t the one clergyperson to face challenges pastoring via the pandemic, in accordance with the outcomes of the #PandemicPastoring report launched Thursday (Sept. 1) by researcher Eileen Campbell-Reed.

Campbell-Reed, visiting affiliate professor of pastoral theology and care at Union Theological Seminary in New York Metropolis and creator of the “Three Minute Ministry Mentor” podcast and video weblog, surveyed greater than 100 Christian pastors, chaplains, campus ministers and lay leaders from greater than 20 denominations between June 2020 and April 2022.

Individuals included clergy she had been following for greater than a decade as a part of the Studying Pastoral Creativeness Undertaking, in addition to ministry and lay leaders from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Serving to Pastors Thrive initiative.

The #PandemicPastoring report was released Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. Courtesy image

The #PandemicPastoring report was launched Sept. 1, 2022. Courtesy picture

Because the COVID-19 pandemic stretched from that first spring into summer time, Campbell-Reed mentioned, she realized its affect on ministry wasn’t going to be short-lived. On the similar time, ministry leaders have been steering their congregations via urgent problems with racism, gender inequity and rising partisan divisions.

She needed to find out how these “a number of pandemics” have been altering the roles — and lives — of pastors and different ministry leaders.

“I believe now we have certainly entered into a brand new period of ministry,” Campbell-Reed mentioned Thursday, saying the findings of her report in a webinar hosted by Good Faith Media.

“I didn’t actually know that till I delved deeply into this information.”

RELATED: For clergy, COVID-19 has brought both burnout and breakthrough

Campbell-Reed was joined within the webinar by Peoples and different clergy from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), African Methodist Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (USA). Not one of the clergy within the webinar have been members within the #PandemicPastoring report’s surveys and interviews.

They shared their experiences of pandemic pastoring — just like the Rev. Sarah McClelland-Brown, who now pastors First Presbyterian Church of Warner Robins, Georgia.

Eileen Campbell-Reed, top left, leads a webinar about the results of the #PandemicPastoring report, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. Video screen grab

Eileen Campbell-Reed, high left, leads a webinar concerning the outcomes of the #PandemicPastoring report, Sept. 1, 2022. Video display seize

McClelland-Brown mentioned she left her small, rural Disciples of Christ congregation in 2020 when members needed her to return to preaching in individual. She was pregnant along with her second youngster on the time.

Amongst a few of the challenges clergy recognized within the #PandemicPastoring report have been relationships and management issues like burnout, determining tips on how to lead in unprecedented instances and minimizing hurt to others.

Different issues developed because the pandemic wore on, Campbell-Reed famous. In summer time 2020, it was about adapting shortly to on-line or outside worship and talking out on racial justice points. By the subsequent summer time and fall, it was dealing with grief and managing battle inside their congregations.

The previous few years introduced moments of shock and delight, too. Some clergy named stronger relationships — each with different individuals and with God. Some identified their congregations’ creativity and skill to adapt to new methods of worshipping collectively.

Most stunning to Campbell-Brown was the resiliency of pastors, she mentioned.

Whereas the difficulties of the pandemic drove Peoples to a breakdown, members of his congregation picked him again up once more. They gave him a while off, then gathered round his desk when he returned and advised him this was work they needed to do collectively, not work he needed to do alone.

The Rev. Timothy Peoples. Video screen grab

The Rev. Timothy Peoples. Video display seize

“I’ve mentioned again and again. The pandemic shutdown was really actually good for us,” he mentioned.

Whereas it led some to depart his church, it created house for others to be susceptible, to share their experiences, to confront their privileges and to take motion.

“We lastly took on onerous discussions and challenges that we had been laying aside for thus lengthy,” Peoples mentioned.

RELATED: For a small Chicago church, closing down was an act of faith

The #PandemicPastoring report isn’t the one latest analysis to search out purpose to hope after years of pandemic.

A number of surveys by the Evangelical Council for Monetary Accountability present that some church leaders noticed development of their congregations regardless of the prevalence of COVID-19.

"The Pandemic Caused Only a Temporary Dip in the Ability for New Churches to Launch Large" Graphic courtesy of ECFA

“The Pandemic Induced Solely a Non permanent Dip within the Skill for New Church buildings to Launch Massive” Graphic courtesy of ECFA

A survey earlier this yr by ECFA of 1,710 North American founding pastors and church leaders concluded that whereas solely 7% of recent church buildings drew 200 or extra individuals on their launch day in 2020, that quantity rebounded to twenty% in 2021. That in contrast with 12% in 2019 and 19% in 2018.

A separate survey of 151 multisite administrators or campus pastors exhibits that about two-thirds, or 64%, mentioned they have been a part of a congregation that launched a brand new campus between 2019 and 2022.

“I’m a part of a church that did that,” mentioned Warren Hen, ECFA senior vice chairman of analysis, at a separate webinar on church planting within the COVID-19 period on Tuesday. “It was thrilling. It was yet one more approach to attain out throughout the pandemic and to see religious fruit occur.”

RELATED: Jehovah’s Witnesses to return to door knocking, a sign of new COVID-19 stage

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