With the pandemic disrupting so many aspects of church life, over the last 10 months the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has continued to produce resources to support, develop and refocus congregational life and witness in these challenging times, especially when congregations can’t meet in person. ‘WHOLE’ is its latest instalment and is free to download from the PCI website.
‘WHOLE – Living well as the people God has made us to be’ to give it its full title is now available in the Refined section of PCI website. The six session resource explores a biblical approach to living well as whole people made in the image of God, as they seek to follow Jesus in this disrupted season of life.
The new resource has been devised and produced by one of PCI’s central councils, the Council for Congregational Life and Witness (CCLW). The Council seeks to support the on-going life, mission and witness of congregations in their work with all age-groups, while encouraging and resourcing them in sharing the hope of the gospel in their communities. Rev David Thompson, Secretary of the Council, highlighted the need for WHOLE at this particular time and how it might fit into congregational life during what may well be a prolonged time of ongoing disruption to normal church activities.
“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on everyone since March. As we move forward into 2021, we do so with hope on the horizon as the vaccine process begins to be rolled out. However, we still face a long, hard winter, when we will need to be self-aware to ensure self-care and also looking out for and supporting others struggling with difficult circumstances.”
Mr Thompson continued, “The Bible has lots to say about living well as the whole people God has made us to be. The WHOLE resource is designed to enable groups, gathering either in person, or digitally as the unfolding situation allows, to explore this topic and benefit from listening to and talking about it with one another.”
Designed specifically for the context of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the six sessions cover:
• Grounded wellbeing: Hopefulness – Romans 8:18-28
• Social wellbeing: Supported – Proverbs 27:17; Ecclesiastes 4:12; Hebrews 10:24-25
• Physical wellbeing: Strengthened – 1 Kings 19:1-9
• Mental wellbeing: Focused – Philippians 4:4-9
• Emotional wellbeing: Steadied – Philippians 4:10-13
• Active wellbeing: Carried along – Hebrews 11:13-16
WHOLE follows the pattern of the previous Unprecedented material, which offered a short, sharp framework for groups, allowing participants to catch up with each other pastorally, reflect on what God is saying in this moment and respond with renewed faith in him and following in his ways for their lives.
Both Unprecedented and WHOLE, are part of a stable of resources produced by CCLW for congregations during the pandemic. In March 2020, PCI began developing a range of resources for congregations across Ireland in response to first lockdown. Existing and new resources were brought together under the banner ‘These three remain…’ which drew its name from the well known verse in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The initiative sought to remind the Church how, in a time of widespread uncertainty, and change, that the three core elements of Christianity, faith, hope and love remain.
‘These three remain…’ included relevant devotional material through PCI’s Tides Daily Devotions, specific points for prayer via Let’s Pray Weekly and ‘In this moment’ prayers in immediate response to the changing situation. Help was also available for congregations in re-imaging core aspects of their work, while they were unable to gather together, through various blogs and podcasts – all of which are ongoing.
Following on from the ‘These Three Remain’ initiative, CCLW developed ‘Refined’, a digital programme hub for supporting and developing congregational life and witness during the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic period.
As David Thompson explained, “Throughout this period we have looked at what we can do with the people and technology available to us. Refined offers a variety of ways to prayerfully seek God’s guidance for this season of church life together and remain open to his leading for the future. It took its name from our first ever digital conference. The conference theme was ‘Refined’ and helped to support our congregations explore God’s refining work in our church life at this particular time. A recording of the conference is available to view on the Refined hub of the PCI website.”
The Refined hub also includes:
• Digital conversations: Small gatherings of ten facilitating the sharing of ideas for a variety of aspects of church life and providing encouragement for those who want to be part of a bigger conversation.
• Digital webinars: Seeking to equip congregational leaders on specific themes for this season of ministry and mission.
• Digital reflection: Ongoing stimulation through the Tides digital devotional, blogs on a variety of subjects, podcasts carrying the story of PCI as we navigate these days together and Facebook pages aimed at supporting leaders in children’s and youth ministry.
• Digital resourcing: Providing a range of Bible study and other resources aimed at equipping congregations to help members in following Jesus in shaping their everyday lives and tailoring church life to honour him at this time.
• Digital conferencing: Exploring big ideas relevant to envisioning the whole denomination for this season of ministry and mission.
The latest in this ongoing series of resources will be launched shortly, and is called ‘For now – Belonging to church in unusual times’. This resource, which will be launched shortly, will contain a message from the Moderator, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, a devotional piece and prayer, some readings from the Psalms and suggestions and encouragement to every PCI family to maintain connection with their congregation while regular worship and rhythms of church life continue to experience disruption.