So what now?
from here? What is different during Lockdown #2?
responded to the beginning of the pandemic in March, a certain adrenaline rush
accompanied the need to make quick decisions. Parishes were forced to innovate
and move decisively. This time, we can fall back into the patterns we
established earlier. The ‘settling back into’ process has little of the earlier
adrenaline rush, as we find ourselves in mid-winter, house-bound, and living
with even further restrictions, rising infection rates and increasing fear and
owning the reality of how this feels as leaders and how this is for our
parishioners are important. The novelty of Netflix binges, reading the bedside-table
book pile, upskilling in Zoom and baking sourdough has worn off. Increased
hours for prayer and quiet walks don’t feel as welcome as they did in March and
All this is
a recipe for stress and anxiety. Faced with this situation, we each have a
choice. We can respond in an unhealthy way (self-medicate) or we can choose a
healthy way (self-care). Carey Nieuwhof, in ‘5 socially-acceptable ways church leaders
overeating, working more, gossip, spending and low-grade substance abuse (such
as ‘just a glass or two’ or misuse of prescription medication) as common ways
we tend to respond to anxiety. None of these are healthy.
Or we can choose to respond more healthily, spending daily
time in prayer, regularly exercising, sleeping more, eating well, connecting
with friends, pursuing a non-work-related hobby, creating spaces in our diary
for ‘down’ time and, importantly, getting professional help if we sense we are
All of this may seem obvious, but we are much better leaders
when we are rested, well-nourished, in touch with God and friends, and
ministering out of a ‘full’ rather than an ‘empty’ well.
Are there ways we can
encourage our parishioners to make healthy choices during this time?
St Andrews Parish in Clayton South has produced a video celebrating their parish in
lockdown; another parish is creating a series of ‘wellbeing’ posts on Facebook,
while another is hosting a trivia
night to share some fun together.
As Lockdown #2 continues, decisions made in March and April
may need to be reviewed. A planned communication strategy is required if we are
to keep our parish community together and engaged.
Your parish leaders may want to revisit your:
website is the ‘front door’ of your parish—almost everyone who visits your
parish for the first time will check your website and make decisions about your
parish based on what they see. Your website is also an information hub for your
parishioners, where they can go to find any information they need
of good parish websites include: Caroline Springs, West Melbourne, Ricketts Point, Burwood and Essendon
- social media—Your
social media are the daily communal and relational tools that allow you to
foster conversation and connection with people through their devices. Facebook
is the main tool parishes use, but some parishes also use Instagram for
reaching their younger people. WhatsApp groups are also popular for keeping
people connected. The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference recently released
this Guide to Social Media for Parishes, which may be of assistance
the beginning of restrictions, many parishes have lamented the poor condition
of their databases. Parishes are relying on electronic communication for most
of their messaging and for the collection of donations. Some parishes are using
communication applications such as Flocknote
or their own websites
to electronically collect as many email addresses as they can
remain the most personal and effective way to distribute weekly livestreaming
links, bulletins, humour, prayer resources and invitations to parish events
- mail and phone
calls—Mail-outs and phone calls are useful communication tools. Is it time
for another letter to everyone in your parish, perhaps with a small
inspirational prayer card or gift? You may also be assisted by this
guide to making parish care calls.
The current suspension of Masses is likely to continue for a
prolonged period. Whether or not your parish livestreams Mass, you might like
to consider other forms of liturgy and prayer, such as Eucharistic adoration, praise
and worship music, the Divine Office, the Rosary and online spiritual
The emotional ramifications of prolonged social distancing
and of asking people to isolate themselves and stay home are becoming more
evident. How can we work against the effects of loneliness, boredom, stress, anxiety or hopelessness? Some tried and tested ideas include:
- a weekly parish program of Masses, prayer, faith
formation and social opportunities
- a digital
‘cuppa’ after Mass via Zoom
- a weekly time when the priest is available to
chat to people, either via phone or Zoom
- Social opportunities involving games and fun, coffee
hours or after-work ‘drinks’
- opportunities to serve.
formation and Scripture study
Many parishes that initially stopped offering faith-formation
opportunities are now considering moving some of these online. It is fairly
easy to gather people online, from the comfort of their homes, to meet, watch a
short video and then discuss it together. These handy
tips might be useful to parishes considering online formation
- Scripture study lends
itself to online delivery.
offers resources in theology, the sacraments and Scripture. Parishes can purchase
a subscription for their parishioners to access.
- Evangelisation opportunities have opened up as the
loneliness and anxiety of lockdown have led to an increase in spiritual seekers
connecting with parishes. Programs such as Alpha
and Sycamore can both be run online.
- RCIA has continued—online or via phone and
emails. The next cohort for Easter 2021 will need to be invited and gathered
You can still meet with people. You can still gather your
leaders. You can still have pastoral-council, finance and liturgy-planning
Many parishes paused their leadership meetings and processes
at the commencement of lockdown earlier this year. After five months, resuming
a full schedule of leadership and governance meetings is both overdue and vital
for the long-term health of your parish.
As this crisis continues unabated, people who were initially resistant
to online meetings are now beginning to accept and even embrace this
technology. Your leadership team can download a comprehensive resource on
ministering during COVID-19 here.
Parishes are vital sources of connection, inspiration and
love in the midst of an uncertain world. We can help by being present. We can
help by sharing information that isn’t based in fear, but based in hope. We can
help by providing a constant community for people to connect with and care for
For more ideas on ministry during COVID-19 lockdown, see: