Chapter 1: Pain and Loss (of Presence)

Pandemic challenges and battles, especially the loss of presence, inflicted deep and lasting wounds on pastoral leaders.

Shepherding a congregation is intensely intimate work. Pandemic restrictions didn’t merely prevent pastors from seeing people face-to-face; in many cases they disrupted both ministry and ministers. In particular, the rush to stream worship services online revealed that many congregants associate church with preaching rather than pastoring.

This shook the gospel calling of many pastors and eventually left not just ministers but also members wrestling with an empty feeling, a gnawing pain, after the live feed ended. Jesus speaks of the sheep knowing his voice and of knowing the sheep, a process that takes time and presence. That intensely intimate work happens in many ways: hugs and handshakes, Communion and counseling.

In reflecting on the vulnerable, sometimes passionate, stories of pain, three themes emerged: (1) personal pain, (2) pain specifically caused by others in the church (what one person called “friendly fire”) and (3) the pain of the loss of presence.

Based on Chapter 1 of the report, in this episode host Aaron Hill (Editor of ChurchSalary) sits down with two researchers from the Arbor Research Group, Jon Swanson and Hope Zeller, to talk about the common experience of pain and loss suffered by pastors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Featuring an in-depth interview with Brian Spahr, former pastor and hospital chaplain, about his experience during the pandemic.

Hosted by Aaron Hill, Editor of ChurchSalary

"COVID and the Church" is produced in conjunction with the Arbor Research Group and funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., through a grant from the Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders (ECFPL) initiative.

Executive produced by Aaron Hill, Terry Linhart, and Matt Stevens

Director for CT Media …

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