It was one year ago today that COVID-19 was first mentioned in the Alban Weekly. Now, as then, we depend on our colleagues at Faith & Leadership to help us think about the opportunities, challenges, griefs and — yes — moments of joy of congregational leadership in a year of pandemic.

Recently, our colleagues asked twelve church and ministry leaders from around the United States what they have learned across this year. While the twelve perspectives are different, there is one overarching theme: the church world faces a moral reckoning, and it cannot run and hide; for whether this crisis or another, there will be trials that test faith communities’ professions of faith and love.

Welcome to the Weekly. 

Adam Russell Taylor

Adam Russell Taylor: “The danger of selfish individualism”

The president of Sojourners offers reflections on what he has learned a year into the pandemic — and offers cautions about the future. 

Tyler Sit: “Compounding traumas and crises”

The founder and senior pastor of New City Church in Minneapolis offers perspective on the year’s “compounding traumas and crises.”

Tyler Sit

Kara Powell

Kara Powell: “I don’t want to go back”

As the executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute, Kara Powell is listening as people of all ages are saying “I don’t want to go back to the busyness of my pre-pandemic schedule.”

Sidney Williams Jr.: “You can’t keep making excuses”

The president and CEO of Crossing Capital Group and the senior pastor of Bethel Church of Morristown says that the pandemic has shown that leaders can — and need to — do something.

Sidney Williams Jr.

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier: “Working through the communal”

Connecting with other people, through the Holy Spirit, is essential, says the coordinator of relations with theological entities for the Association for Hispanic Theological Education.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: “Charity isn’t enough”

The author and theologian reminds us that “this virus has spread through all the places where our society is broken.”

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Frank Yamada

Frank Yamada: “The meaning of bodily presence”

“It was assumed that presence and embodiment were the same things. … it’s time to reflect deeply on the meaning of bodily presence,” says the executive director of the Association of Theological Schools.

Jessica Young Brown: “What are the things I really need?”

The director of the Barry Young Center for Ministry Formation at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University prompts us to ask, “What are the things I really need to be OK?”

Jessica Young Brown

David P. King

David P. King: “Clear and transparent”

The Karen Lake Buttrey Director of the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving cautions congregations to remember, “You have to point the people to how their giving continues to align with their own values and the congregation’s mission.”

Robert Rueda: “The greater good”

The Baptist campus minister at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley says that, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the future belongs to the young.

Robert Rueda

Paul Baxley

Paul Baxley: “How do we

After an exhausting year, the executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship asks how congregations and leaders can find renewal and energy for what’s ahead.

Kelly Brown Douglas: “A moral reckoning”

The dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary says the church must rise up to meet the urgency of this moment.

Kelly Brown Douglas

Resources for leaders during the pandemic

From the Alban Library

How Your Congregation Learns: The Learning Journey from Challenge to Achievement

by Tim Shapiro

How Your Congregation Learns: The Learning Journey from Challenge to Achievement

Change isn’t always easy or intuitive. How Your Congregation Learns introduces churches and leaders — both lay and ordained — to the process of the learning journey. By understanding learning dynamics and working to become a learning community, the congregation will be able to move more purposefully to achieve its goals.

Congregations face many kinds of challenges. Some are mundane: the roof leaks; the parking lot needs repaving; the microphones don’t work well. Some tests are transcendent: How should lives be honored? What is God calling the congregation to do and be? How can generosity be taught? Throughout life people face challenges for which they are not prepared — the death of a parent, a new job offer, making a decision about where to live. So it goes that congregational leaders face challenges that are just beyond the grasp of their abilities. This book addresses the just-beyond-the-grasp challenges and shows how real congregations can learn from them. 

Before you go…

Mary Oliver once wrote of a walk in nature: “Oh, good scholar, / I say to myself, / how can you help / but grow wise / with such teachings?” In the company of the twelve leaders that Faith & Leadership interviewed, her words are mine. How can we help but grow wise from such teachers?

It’s worth saying that the most important question for many of us may not be what others are learning but what we are learning through this year. We’ve prompted that question many times in the Weekly in the last twelve months and do so again here. Perhaps you could create your own Faith & Leadership-like collection of pandemic-era wisdom from your lay leaders, members and friends.

Harvesting that wisdom, how can we help but grow wise together?

We’ll see you next week, and in the meantime, peace! 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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