It feels like so much has happened since the APNC extended the call to join the staff at Derry Presbyterian Church back in the early days of March, before lockdowns and quarantines and virtual worship were even a thought for most Americans. Thinking all the way back to December, when I first came across the Derry Presbyterian Church Ministry Information Form (the part of the pastoral search process that shares with potential candidates information about the church and programs), there’s one thing that I still have a very clear memory of reading: that Derry Church was a place that welcomed and encouraged innovation.
This grabbed my attention at the time because I had just returned from a week and a half in the UK as part of an international cohort program that focused on youth, theology, and innovation. I had so many new ideas swirling around in my mind. Some things to jump in and try to pilot, some to dive deeper into development, and some that were just the smallest seedlings of ideas coming out of new opportunities I was seeing. None of those ideas centered around remote, virtual ministry, though.
In the past couple of weeks since I’ve officially started here, I have seen Derry’s commitment to innovation first hand. It’s not easy to shift gears and completely change how we do things, but COVID-19 has made us do just that. Even from June 21, the Sunday on which I offered my candidating sermon, to this past Sunday when I preached for the first time as your Associate Pastor, there have been shifts and changes to how things are done in the Sanctuary on a Sunday morning. Everyone who is present is patient and kind as we wade through these ever-changing waters and the comments that are received in the online guestbook show that those qualities are embedded in the congregation, too.
Last week, I launched a Virtual Youth Room that has links to a number of different resources for prayer, study, and mission from home. While the space is geared towards the youth, many of the links that you’ll find there (by clicking around on the images) can be used by people of all ages. It’s still a work in progress but knowing that the folks of Derry Presbyterian Church are a patient and flexible group helped when I released the link into the world. I am hopeful that this is an online space where the youth (and other congregation members) can find a moment of peace — whether that’s from the Taize music that is linked through clicking on the speaker, the devotional that’s on the bookshelf, or one of the prayer options — in an otherwise hectic and ever changing world.
As I continue in my ministry here, I hope to dream up other innovative ways of doing ministry with our young people, our families, and all of our members, both for times when we need to be apart as well as once we can gather together within the building once again. Derry Church has shown itself to be an engaged and thoughtful community of believers and I am excited to be here and to be a part of this church.