As I speak to people from congregations of IMMC I hear that most are meeting in-person again and others hope to in the coming months. Nothing about the pandemic has affected us more than the loss of in-person relationships. While a large measure of caution is needed in coming back together, community building measures are critical as well.
We will do well to focus on two things: 1) creating connections, and 2) cultivating empathy.
Social distancing is one thing, but when all our relationships went virtual, we changed. We were no longer able to be truly present with others outside of prearranged and structured methods. The influence of social media exploded in our lives, yet its ability to be socially beneficial is an ironic tragedy. We have always known disagreement. Now with social media, we can block people with whom we disagree and follow ideologies we like. This is feeding division in our communities. The people of our churches have been relationally malnourished.
Now is the time for us to intentionally provide opportunities for people to connect and reconnect. Some connections can happen just in gathering for a worship service. However, providing space for people to be in conversation with each other will enable connection, a sense of belonging, and growth in relationships.
In-person conversations will cultivate empathy among people. Providing space and opportunity for people to talk across lines of disagreement can foster a climate of understanding where listening is favored over speaking.
The MLT has managed with Zoom meetings, but we too plan to be back in-person at our next meeting. I like the other people on the MLT, but our Zoom meetings have not helped us grow deeper as a community. I am ready to spend time with these people in-person.
I am also looking forward to getting to know the newest member of the MLT, Shawn Lange. I asked him to introduce himself. Shawn replied, “I am motivated and driven by God’s presence. The Lord saved me 22 years ago and I’m still on fire for reaching kingdom people. I look forward to this missional journey.” Wow. I really look forward to going deeper!
May God’s Spirit lead us into deeper community – our congregations, our teams, and our conference. Amen.
Steve Slagel, Moderator Elect