How do you cope with those silent moments that occur in every conversation?
Do you see them as a moment to savour or as an awkward silence?
Pauses and silences can be perceived as both an opportunity and a threat.
They can be a welcome invitation to rest for a moment, to allow what has been said to sink in. Conversely, they can be seen as an aching void that needs to be filled.
During the Covid-19 crisis many gaps have opened up in church programmes. Churches have not been able to gather physically, and this has made many of our activities more difficult or nearly impossible to sustain.
Many church leaders have suggested that they are busier during lockdown than is normal.
How might this be avoided?
Not re-inventing the wheel: Not every church has the resources to do everything. This odd season is an opportunity to reach out to others, pool resources and avoid unnecessary duplication.
Resisting the Messianic tendency: The blessing of digital connectivity is also its bane; we are always connected. I guess that all of us need to monitor our screen time.
Emails: They do not all need to be answered instantly.
Texts: In some ways I like the text message format. It is a short and direct communication that is easily accessible and is not so intrusive as phone call. Yet again it does not always require an instant reply.
WhatsApp Groups: Someone can add us to one of these groups. Some people find it really hard to leave the group- a really embarrassing message comes up to announce your departure! It is possible to mute the notifications for as little as 8 hours or for a week or a year.
Maybe there is an attempt to offer as much or more in the church programme than usual?
Does a congregation need daily contact from their church leaders? Perhaps less is more. Strategic, focused and clear communication once a week between Sundays might be more sustainable.
Sometimes the preacher needs to take a breath. Why do preachers always have to tell us that they are busy. Are we supposed to be impressed, sympathetic or responsible?
I remember how liberating it was over three decades ago to read Eugene Peterson write about being an “Unbusy pastor”.
Peterson was writing in as a local church pastor in 1981, before he became a well-know author. He provocatively writes:
“The word ‘busy’ is the symptom, not of commitment, but of betrayal."
"How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I convincingly persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to constantly juggle my schedule to make everything fit into place?
I can’t preach when I am a busy pastor. I want to be a pastor who listens.
I can’t listen if I am busy. When my schedule is tight and crowded, I’m not free to listen: I have to keep my next appointment; I have to get to the next meeting. But if I provide margins to my day, there is ample time to listen.
Years ago, I noticed, as all pastors must notice, that when a pastor left a neighbouring congregation, the congregational life carried on very well, thank you…”
A congregation would go for months, sometimes as long as a year or two, without a regular pastor. And I thought, “All these things I’m so busy doing-they aren’t being done in that pastor-less congregation and nobody seems to mind.”
I asked myself, “What if I, without leaving, quit doing them right now? Would anybody mind?
I did, and they didn’t."
“Be still and know that I am God.” It is good to remember that this was a word to a people in a crisis sinking into chaos.