Clergy and Their Resilience

By: The Reverend Dr. Norval Brown, Pastor

Article Image

I came to the Cary United Methodist Church in July of last year. While I was familiar with this congregation and had some friends here, the COVID-19 pandemic presented some challenges in reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Added to the difficulties was the fact that there was a significant number of members who either did not have computers or chose not to use them in staying connected to the church. Visiting in homes was out of the question as I/we adhered to John Wesley’s 3 Simple Rules:

  1. Do No Harm
  2. Do Good
  3. Stay in Love with God

Being new to the area and not having the standard ways of getting together to meet people was a challenge, but my congregation and I met it head on in several ways. This was by no means an individual effort. Rather, the work of our staff and some committed laypersons made all of this happen.

Years ago, when I was in seminary, a professor of church administration said I should write seven letters a week. Now mind you, this was before email was even a thought in someone’s head. This professor meant that I should put pen to paper and write. Well, I don’t think that I got around to seven letters a week then, but I have now. Each week, our congregation prays for five different families in our parish. Soon after my arrival, I began writing a prayer to each family for whom we were praying that week. And I got cards in the mail from many of those families. Those who do not have access to prevailing technology found those prayers especially beneficial as they were something on to which they could hold and to which they could refer from time to time.

During the Advent Season – the days leading up to Christmas – a member came to me expressing her desire to sing Christmas carols. That idea became “Parking Lot Christmas Carols” which we did on the four Sundays before Christmas. We met in the church parking lot wearing our masks, observing social distancing and we sang for half an hour. We were joined by not only members of our parish but members of the community who had heard about it in some way. It was truly an uplifting moment as the darkness of winter began to settle around us.

Believe it or not, 2020 was not all bad. As people bemoaned stay at home orders, the inability to gather as a congregation, the constant ZOOM meeting after ZOOM meeting, they might have missed all of the good things that happened. There were births. There were confirmations. There were weddings. There were graduations. And we found ways to creatively celebrate all of those life events. Too many could get caught up in “but that’s not the same” and miss God saying, “Behold, I am doing a new thing. Can you not perceive it?”

These were ways we were able to “stay in love with God” and see that love grow.