I am a HUGE Mel Brooks fan. Always have been. Always will be.
Perhaps one of the funniest and most memorable Mel Brooks scenes is from his 1981 film A History of the World: Part 1, in which Brooks, in the role of Moses, comes down from Mount Sinai carrying three tablets containing 15 commandments. He then drops one (with the best use of "Oy!" I can recall) and as the tablet breaks, we are left with only 10 commandments.*
It is brilliant.
I bring this up because we need more humor right now. And also because it is a good reminder that we do indeed have only 10 commandments. All the other rules and regulations we have are ours and we can change them.
As Winston Churchill was working to form the United Nations after WWII, he famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. From something bad came something good. The worldwide pandemic which has caused churches to close to public worship is indeed a crisis. And one that presents the church with opportunities.
I have seen several webinars and articles about "restarting" our churches after the crisis. But I have not seen a good, sound conversation about NOT restarting our churches. Rather, let us relaunch our congregations. Let us be nimble church plants in gorgeous 150-year old buildings. Let us dream a new church into being, one that is not modeled on the way church was. Rather, on what it could be.
What if church services were held on other days than Sundays and thus allow more flexibility for families whose weekends are over-scheduled?
What if our Latino ministry was "in-culture" but not in Spanish?
What if, now that we know we can do it, we used live streaming and other digital tools to reach a larger audience, that can become a new way of congregating?
And what if, as we come back, we don't reflexively re-start everything we had been doing but first checked to make sure that everything we do moving forward is part of our mission?
As we do this, we'll fail at some things but we'll be trying new ways. This in itself is exciting.
The bottom line is this: let us not let the opportunity created by this crisis go to waste. Let us take it and run with it.
I'll finish with this (think of it as an iron-clad guarantee): as we dream a new church into being, even falling along the way, as long as we are prayerful, open, loving, discerning, and always looking for Jesus in what we do, we'll be fine.
The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija is the founding director of the TryTank Experimental Lab.