Seminary Listens to the Church’s Witness Amid COVID-19 Concerns

May 14, 2020

“There is a revolution happening,” stated Rev. Dr. David Vásquez-Levy, president of the Pacific School of Religion (PSR) in Berkeley while hosting a recent webinar featuring three guest speakers including Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In order to get a broader sense of both the challenges and opportunities facing the church in this time, PSR opened a conversation with denominational partners including CNUMC, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ on the topic, “The Church’s Witness in the Midst of COVID-19: Short-Term and Long-Term Perspectives” on Tuesday, May 12. More than 60 people participated including alumni, students, staff, clergy and members of various churches.

“We are all essential, we all have a purpose,” said Bishop Carcaño. “I am thinking about that—how we continue, not squander this great opportunity. How to be the prophetic people we are called to be.”

“The church is changing…” noted Rev. Dr. Diane Weible, Conference Minister for the Northern California Nevada United Church of Christ. Weible reflected on the early church as a model. “The Acts Church is a model to find ways [for change]. [The early church] was inspired and moved by meeting Jesus and the risen Christ … and [it] can inspire us to tackle issues.”

The speakers considered how churches may choose to reform after COVID-19 including expanding intergenerational ministries.
“Take all off [the table] and put back on what you need. This is a perfect time to start with a blank canvas,” challenged Weible who asked that churches think about what ministries in the past have been effective and what is working now. “What do we need to stay together as a church?”

“Everything we thought we knew has been tossed up into the air….and maybe,” said Rev. Dr. LaTaunya Bynum, Regional Minister of the Christian Church of Northern California-Nevada thinking how to make space for others to lead and how to listen to new voices. “Maybe what we need to do is let it crash and break.”

“God makes all things new—not all new things,” added Bynum noting that the foundation of the church remains the same, but it allows for a large degree of creativity in forming faith expressions including those online. “I find this an incredibly exciting time to be part of the church.”

“Churches become more accessible online,” said Byrnum. “I think that will continue—people will continue to hear an encouraging word and getting to know what they can do. Even while shut in, we need to talk about injustices as they occur.”

“There is so much we can do if we come together,” concluded Weible. The panelists discussed how churches have straddled many technological hurdles during the pandemic. “We now have the tech piece in place to move forward with courage to what is next.”

Click here to view the recording of this and other PSR webinars.