How Can We Care Digitally?
In this time of Covid-19, religious leaders have been using their creativity and energy to find new ways to connect with their congregations for worship, study, and care.
“Yet all this creativity has been siloed within denominations or in informal networks,” said Matt Taylor, ICJS Protestant Scholar. “Let’s cross-pollinate those good ideas.”
To do that, ICJS launched its first weekly forum yesterday, called “Congregational Creativity in a Time of Crisis.” Each Thursday at 1pm, Baltimore religious leaders can gather digitally to share what they are doing to reach their congregations to gain new ideas and to support their fellow clergy. The forum also can be a place to think and discuss the ethical and theological questions that underpin their work during this time.
Rabbi Andy Gordon, leader at Bolton Street Synagogue, led the discussion this week, sharing that his congregation has been using the tech platform Zoom for Saturday services, Torah study, religious school classes, and even alternative gatherings. For example, twice a week for 30 minutes, Rabbi Gordon hosts a zoom “check in” service with text study, music, and prayers. He’s also created a short evening story-time for families with young children, who come to the screen in their pajamas.
“Our biggest challenge is how do you connect people when they are in their homes?” he said.
To meet this goal, Rabbi Gordon and the synagogue board leadership committed to reaching out to every member at least once a week. Rabbi Gordon has focused on reaching out to elderly congregants and others who are especially isolated.
The Rev. Christina Paglianauan, associate rector at Church of the Redeemer (Episcopal), said that her congregation also committed to reaching every member, using 40 lay leaders to help. She provided the leaders a list of questions, starting with: What are your immediate needs, and how are you managing?
“This is a time to amplify our imaginations,” said Rev. D. Brent Laytham, dean at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute. “How I am experiencing this crisis may not be how others are experiencing it at all.”
For example, he said, many of our community’s medical personnel are working overtime in very trying situations while they also are trying to juggle childcare at home.
Participants also considered how to reach the most vulnerable in the community, including food-insecure residents in the region. Many food pantries have reduced service, yet the needs have increased. Participants shared community resources who are still open and looking for help, including:
To join the ICJS clergy and religious leaders conversation next week, email the ICJS at firstname.lastname@example.org.