Last month, Claremont School of Theology alumni/ae engaged in a discussion around innovative ways of conducting church in the time of COVID-19 in a Zoom gathering featuring Reverend Bo Sanders.
Claremont School of Theology is one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries supported by the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment of the United Methodist Church.
Bo Sanders, pastor of Vermont Hills UMC in Portland, Oregon, has been engaging congregations in interactive, creative ministry long before the pandemic came on the scene. During this gathering, he identified two primary strategies of online church that have come to prominence during the pandemic: Church 1.0, pre-recorded offerings, and Church 2.0, worship and other offerings that are live and interactive. Emphasizing how worship can thrive as a more interactive, democratic space where dialogue is centered and celebrated, he explained:
“With many of the other churches and pastors that I talk to, this time of digital or online church is somewhere between a pain in the butt and a compromise you’re sort of weathering until you can get back to ‘real church.’” Herein Bo sees a missed opportunity both to recognize the importance of accepting that this is the reality of ministry right now and to see the unique strengths of digital church.
Bo explained his own techniques and strategies for online church as well as demonstrating ways to layer digital church experiences so that participants can engage to different extents depending on their needs. He feels convinced to continue using online church even after in-person worship becomes feasible again, as this allows individuals who are far away or immunocompromised to participate in the life of the church.
Bo also called out the role that the energy behind the church’s efforts this season will play in how people receive them:
“If you think that online church is just a crutch to get us through this crisis so we can get back to the good stuff, versus if you think engaging with people by any means necessary is the goal whether you’re physically present with them or not, it really will affect what gets your first and best energy and people can sense that. In that sense, the medium is the message.”
Many people are already spending even more time than usual online these days, which is all the more reason to work toward providing quality content and opportunities to engage deeply with one another. You can access a recording of this Zoom gathering as well as Bo’s PowerPoint presentation on the CST alumni resources page. You can also catch Bo in action on the Vermont Hills UMC Facebook page or the Vermont Hills UMC website.
Claremont School of Theology website, Claremont, CA
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Ministerial Education Fund is at the heart of preparing people for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The 13 United Methodist seminaries help students to discover their calling through the challenging curriculum. The fund enables the church to increase financial support for recruiting and educating ordained and diaconal ministers and to equip annual conferences to meet increased demands. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment at 100 percent.