A few years ago, I read The Agile Church: Spirit-Led Innovation in an Uncertain Age by Lutheran Seminary professor of leadership Dwight J. Zscheile. Zscheile wrote this book in 2014. He couldn’t have known what was coming six years later, but his book written for the challenges congregations face in the 21st-century landscape is even more needed two years into the COVID-19 pandemic. Fundamentally, the book is about clergy and congregations adopting an experimental posture in their work. Try it. Did it work? No? Try that. Did it work? Refine it. The book is richer and more complex than that, but that’s it in broad brush strokes.
COVID-19 upended so much of what I was accustomed to, so much of what seminary trained me for. Overnight, Zscheile’s advice became my playbook. Clergy colleagues and I got experimental fast. Recording. Broadcasting. Crash courses on epidemiology and public health with our denominations. Then, digital everything. Online worship, online giving (thanks be to God we launched our new website in December 2019!), software and hardware upgrades, new skillsets. I will long remember the first sermon I preached to the camera standing above the pews of an empty sanctuary. As I had done so many times from our pulpit, I told a joke. It was so awkward. You may well have laughed, but I couldn’t hear you, and half of any joke is the laughter that wasn’t in the room.
Among other media, Facebook Live became a mainstay for me. For 21 months, I’ve sat in front of my computer and broadcast weekly video prayer talks, Bible studies, and topical lessons. But, at long last, my soul is asking for something different, telling me that I’ve maxed out the capabilities of this medium.
As of Wednesday, my Facebook Live broadcast has become a podcast. It’s very much a work-in-progress, but the broader capacities of a podcast medium excite me. My Facebook-style topical dialogues with you can continue, but with them, interviews, music, meditations on Appalachian landscape sounds, and more become possibilities–possibilities that reach beyond Facebook’s users.
Twenty-one months in, it’s an attempt to remain pastorally “agile” in an “uncertain age.” My first podcast picked up where my Facebook Live broadcasts left off: responding to listener questions. It went live yesterday at noon. Both the production quality and the content are works-in-progress. I’m learning. Join me.
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Pastoral Ponderings is a brief, weekly email from Rev. Zach Bay. You are invited to peek behind the curtain of the pastor’s study at what he is reading, thinking about, and working on this week. Pastoral Ponderings may be a set of loose threads of thought or a well-wrought article. It may be only a paragraph, but it will never be more than 400 words. Feel free to click reply and write back anytime. Zach enjoys hearing from you.