Traction and Distraction

If you can’t already tell, I’m trying to use this two-week “break” to find my way back to posting here regularly.  This last quarter has been a lot busier than I had anticipated.  And while I’ve mostly been able to keep up with regular reading, regular writing has been more difficult for me.

The two thinkers who helped me most at the beginning of the pandemic have gone a little more quiet over these last few months.  Andy Crouch’s pieces from the beginning of Covidtide really helped me think institutionally and broadly, particularly his images of blizzard and ice ages.  The other thinker, Ephraim Radner, helped me think a lot about the life of faith (and the communal life of faith) in light of The Current Moment.  I think often of his First Things piece titled “Theology after the Virus” from just over a year ago.  He teases out some of the ideas that he had introduced earlier in 2020 about churches and the quick move to online services, this time wondering about the future of theological education and training across the board “after the virus.”

I think it’s because of these two thinkers that I’ve tried to make clear adjustments to work over these last few months.  Working with our school administration (and knowing that gathering everyone back in the gym for weekly chapel wasn’t an option), I pushed for a more “small groups” model to chapel time, where there is still a “chapel talk” and worship/reflection song and even student “micro-interviews” but that also had a greater “conversational” component.  This is because conversation is easily lost in a digital (and particularly concurrent) learning environment.  And so this quarter has seen my team (my wonderful team) helping with videos but also with slides and scripts to equip our teachers to engage in better conversations with their students.  We’ve also been given time to do some of that “faculty equipping” in person, which has been good (I hope).

Church has been in-person for a good while now.  Our pastor left back in May.  I preached for three weeks in July.  Well, I suppose I tried to lead them in some conversations more than anything else.  I tried to bring to mind potent New Testament images of the church that are as much about being as they are about doing.  They did some talk and turns, some writing and reflecting.  I’m now serving again on the pastor search committee, which is mostly meeting via Zoom.  Much of the old committee is back, which gives us a decent amount of familiarity.  But I’m also trying to ask some questions to build some community and make some connections.  We’ll be meeting in person soon (at least once), which I’m looking forward to quite a bit.

Now that we are this far into the pandemic (and now that I’m involved with approximately three search committees), I am more mindful of wondering about “what has been learned” from these last 18 months.  Perhaps learning something isn’t the most important thing.  Perhaps surviving these days is the more important thing.  But I can’t help think that a good stewardship of This Moment would bring some fruitful reflection that could lead to some intentional action.

Having said all of that, I’ve got a stack of articles to post about over these next few days.  It’s a hodgepodge ranging over the last few months (with nothing from Crouch or Radner).  So consider this the warning.  While I’m grateful for things learned and done this last quarter, I’m also hopeful about getting some traction back here (and with getting my thoughts down again, in general).  Not that one thing is a distraction from the other- in the best of all possible worlds everything works together well.  Maybe the next few days will allow a course-correction for that.

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