“WHERE HAS ALL THE SAND GONE?”
As we stood overlooking Whiterocks beach, outside Portrush, after the storm damage at the beginning of this year, this was the question that escaped my 6-year-old daughter’s lips. Perhaps you too had an opportunity to view the Whiterocks devoid of their usual sandy surroundings. Battered by named storm after named storm throughout the winter, the beach’s landscape, so familiar to many of us, had completely changed.
Just as the winter storms and the rhythm of the tide have contributed to changing our natural landscape, so the last number of years have seen our local congregations reshaped by the impact of the global pandemic. As Presbyterian churches across Ireland continue to emerge from the long-shadow of Covid-19 and into more regular rhythms of corporate worship, discipleship, evangelism, and fellowship, it would be a mistake to think that the impact and after effects of the pandemic will simply disappear.
Though we are back together and getting going again in our life and witness, congregations of all shapes and sizes will continue to face the significant challenge of how to biblically and pastorally respond effectively to the avalanche of psychological, emotional, and spiritual traumas experienced by many church members of all ages. The tears, wounds, doubts, pains, sorrows, and questions people are carrying cannot be swept away or ignored.
To explore what shape this biblical and pastoral care might take in this present moment, the Council for Congregational Life and Witness are delighted to be hosting a free, in-person event entitled, Restored: Tending the soul in the wake of the pandemic, on Tuesday 15th November at 7:30pm in Assembly Buildings, Belfast.
This event is for all Ministers and Elders, as well as Youth, Pastoral, Discipleship, and Mission/Outreach workers, Worship leaders, and volunteers within congregations.
Following a plenary address delivered by Andrew Collins (Consultant Psychiatrist and Biblical Counsellor), participants will have the opportunity to attend one of three seminars.
Seminar 1 – Is there any room for the darkness of our lives?
How often do you hear that response in church? How often do you utter that response to someone in your church? Though week-by-week we might insist that everything’s “fine”, as people of Christian faith we know that God’s good creation has been compromised. The brokenness of this world will inevitably invade our lives and our churches. How can our congregations sensitively and safely make room for the despair, pain, sadness, anger, brokenness, loneliness, fear, and doubt many in our pews are experiencing?
In this seminar, Andrew Dickson (PCI Congregational Life Development Officer) will take a deeper look at how, in the Bible, lament is the prayer which makes that room for us to respond to moments of suffering.
Unpacking Bible Society NI’s Daring to Hope resource, this seminar will dig deeper into the Bible and offer practical teaching on how we can learn to lament like those throughout Scripture. Exploring how we can come close, listen to, and walk alongside those who are suffering, this seminar will also give some simple ideas on how our congregations can incorporate lament into corporate worship services, small group discipleship settings, and pastoral care, so that we can better lead people on the path from heartbreak to hope.
Seminar 2 – Still not back yet?
Adopting a pastorally sensitive approach to those who have not yet returned to church activities.
Does your congregation find itself with a bigger fringe membership following the pandemic? There are people who were always on the fringe and still are. People who have moved to the fringe because they haven’t come back yet. Might there also be people who are new to the fringe because they have appeared in the wake of the pandemic around church activities? How about people who have connected digitally, but not yet in-person?
In one way it is so challenging to pastorally and practically prioritise this area of ministry. But also, what an opportunity if we can find ways to make sense of all this and find sensitive approaches to creating opportunities to accompany those on the edges of church life towards greater engagement with the community of God’s people. This might be a vital step towards considering what a relationship with Jesus could mean for their life.
This seminar, delivered jointly by David Thompson (Secretary, Council for Congregational Life and Witness) and Neil Harrison (PCI Congregational Witness Development Officer), will give a framework for better understanding those we find on the fringes of church life and some simple ideas for making pastorally sensitive connection and conversation.
Seminar 3 – Shaken, Steady, Strong
Tending the souls of young people in the wake of the pandemic.
Members of The Big House Ireland team will explore the unique experiences and impact that Covid-19 has had on adolescents. This seminar will share the latest research on how young people’s mental health has been impacted by the pandemic and offer insights for pastoral responses. The team will help participants think theologically about how to respond to the adolescent experience, offer guiding Biblical motifs of care and practical suggestions for you and your church as you look to tend to the wounds Covid-19 has inflicted on our young people, and the possibilities it has afforded.
This seminar will not be a place to discuss the pastoral difficulties of individual young people, but the team will be available to chat after the seminar if needed.
To book your free place to join us at Restored on Tuesday 15th November at 7:30pm in Assembly Buildings, Belfast, click here today.