COVID will accelerate weakening of the traditional religious institutions and practices that earlier generations relied on for answers. But the virus is also exposing new pathways for meaning and connection in our bruised and hurting world.
That sobering and hopeful paragraph closed an article, titled“Five COVID-Fueled Shifts in our Religious and Spiritual Landscape” in a Fetzer Institute newsletter. I think this article is important to read. But it won’t be easy or comfortable. It will challenge many of our congregations, but it should also give us glimpses into what opportunities this COVID time presents to us.
The article is written by the Rev. Sue Phillips,a co-founder of Sacred Design Lab. I became especially interested in their work when I discovered that they consulted with judicatories who wanted to meet with their communities to re-imagine sacred space in their church buildings and contexts. They recognized that the language of “the sacred” was a common language between churches and communities providing a hopeful starting point for conversations and shared projects.
I also became interested in Sacred Design Lab as more and more religious and spiritual institutions are employing the language of “labs” when labeling programs and agencies. The Oregon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America supports a community-based ministry called Together Lab. The Presbytery of the Cascades was working on an “Innovation Lab” concept before the Rev. Morgan Schmidt from Bend, First inspired me to think more in playground images than laboratory images. The $1,000 Stimulus Grants were part our Innovation Playground initiative. The spirit of experimentation and laboratory-like learning environments are becoming the lens through which we are viewing ministry innovation.
I invite you to read this article by the Rev. Sue Phillips. You may not agree with everything here. You may not like everything you read, but I do think it is worth hearing from those who are studying religious trends especially related to COVID-19. They may be seeing trends that we are blind to because we are too close to the source.
The five shifts they point to are below and you can read a fuller explanation in the attached article. These would be great talking points for your Session, vision team or adult study. Read the full article here.
The Five COVID-fueled shifts:
- Meaning Takes Center Stage
- Traditional Delivery Pathways for Religious Life are Breaking Down
- Community Can Be Home-Based
- Spiritual Leadership is De-Professionalizing
- Virtual Connection Can be Surprisingly Meaningful
Thanks for being my lab partner!
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades