Published by Church Publishing on November 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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The COVID-19 pandemic is an inflection point for the church everywhere--and certainly for the Episcopal Church. The sudden flowering of creativity, connection, and collaboration is an expression of the Holy Spirit's relentless presence within the church; yet ongoing distancing creates difficulties to be overcome on the other side of the present crisis.
How will we change habits of isolation and regather the church? How will we manage the impact on church finances? How is God calling us to embrace the energy and creativity of this moment--and the longing people have felt for a return to community? What challenges will we face regathering the people of God, particularly in already weakened communities?
We Shall Be Changed is a gathering of brief essays from thought leaders around the church on pressing topics that the church needs to be considering now--in preparation for the end of this pandemic. The book is designed to spur conversation within parishes, fellowship groups, and clergy gatherings about how to embrace the gifts this time has given while anticipating and addressing the very real challenges the church will confront in its wake.
This time last year there were a host of books being released in the new, though limited genre of “pandemic prose.” This is a genre that bears many similarities to theodicy, that is theology dealing with the problem of evil, but it’s a genre that is limited to a specific context and a specific space. Usually the books were focused on answering the questions relating to COVID-19 such as “did God allow or even cause it?” or “how can we use this pandemic to become more faithful?”
Being now over a year out from the initial lockdowns and quarantine periods the expectations of these pieces of pandemic prose has changed. Now, rather than just asking the same questions as before and centering the conversation on issues related to theodicy we are instead seeing media more focused on asking follow-up questions such as “so what?” and “where do we go from here?”
This is what Anglican Bishop Mark D.W. Edington attempts to do in We Shall be Changed, a collection of essays written by a host of sixteen figures across the spectrum of the Church. The essays are divided up into five “conversations”, distancing and deepening, liturgy and longing, hard choices and helping hands, inequality, marginalization- & renewal, and leadership- challenge and change.
As a collection often does, the essays vary in quality but overall they are important questions worth asking as it zeros in on two primary problems: the Church’s response to racism and the Church’s response to COVID. From analogies to midwifery to the question of monetary faithfulness and technology these essays ask the questions of how we might better address and think about these things going forward.
Don’t come to this book expecting answers, as the subtitle points out this book is a collection of “Questions for the Post-Pandemic Church.” Questions, not answers. For this reason I would recommend this book as a study for church leadership because it begins the conversation but it doesn’t end it, rather it offers starting places.
There is some sage wisdom contained within this collection and they offer perspectives that readers may not have thought of or had difficulty putting into words, whatever the case this is a good starting place for beginning to think about where we go from here as we enter into (hopefully) the waning days of the pandemic.