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  • Susan Cartmell

Preaching in a Pandemic

With the arrival of the coronavirus, COVID 19, our society has changed completely;

nowhere has that change been more powerfully felt than in church life and worship.

When in-person worship was suspended across the nation last spring pastors started to reinvent some time-honored traditions for online presentations. Pastors engaged in this

liturgical experiment expecting this might be a short-term shift or temporary adaptation.

However, as we became aware of the seriousness of this illness and the risks of infection

made manifest through in-person worship many pastors have begun to re-think worship

over a longer time frame and to invest more fully in opportunities to gather their

congregations online.


The pandemic has challenged preachers to radically re-think how we lead worship. It presents us with many new constraints with implications for time-honored traditions and many pastors have to reassess liturgy in terms of public health considerations. Suddenly, without a lot of warning or even time to contemplate options, pastors have been required

to make big changes, experimenting with sacred traditions in ways both bold and even

jarring. But this moment in history also presents worship leaders with an opportunity to rethink worship, and re-invent the sacred ways we gather tailoring worship for an online

audience. This crisis also serves as an invitation for new creativity and a chance to carry

our message to a broader audience.



All of this involves a steep learning curve. It also raises many questions about what is essential in worship and what parts of our services translate well into this new medium. The pandemic challenges us to learn a new set of skills. But the pandemic, like any crisis, also offers us the opportunity to be creative, to try new things and to re-invent some

parts of worship. The pandemic pushes us to ask pointed questions about our preaching, It

challenges us to consider what messages are people craving. What spiritual pain needs pastoral attention? What community issues need prophetic response?


Then we also need to ask ourselves - How do we find our audience? How do we connect

with the people we normally saw in the pews? How do we use this moment to reach new

audiences of people who are hungry for faith today and searching online for words of

hope?


Over the last six months I have had a pretty steep learning curve as I worked to understand

the unique challenges of this moment in the church and human history. I am planning to

start writing about my own experiences and what I have learned during this unusual time.

Stay tuned.

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Pilgrim Congregational Church, 533 MA-28 Harwich Port MA