A “hybrid” is defined as “a thing made by combining two different elements, a mixture”. Hybrids exist in nature – the offspring of two plants or animals of different species. For example, a mule is a hybrid of a horse and donkey; a tangelo is a hybrid of a mandarin orange and tangerine. Apparently, strawberries are hybrids – I didn’t know that, did you?
I used to own a hybrid bicycle – it was a cross between a road bike and mountain bike. And there are many varieties of hybrid cars on the road today – in this case it’s the engine that offers the hybrid quality of gasoline and electric.
So, why all this talk of hybrids? Because I believe COVID-19 is creating hybrid forms of ministry. Worship will be the best example of this as some choose to resume in-person worship as it is allowed; while due to health concerns, medical guidance and risk factors others will choose to stay home. Churches, including the one I serve, will continue to offer worship by live stream, even while we have in-person participants back in the building – let’s call it a hybrid. We will need to be aware of both constituent groups as we plan, lead and participate in worship moving forward. For example, how do you facilitate a hybrid greeting time? Or a hybrid prayer time? Those are questions we continue to wrestle with.
But living in hybrid community will extend beyond worship. It has impact on pastoral care, fellowship, faith formation and discipleship. The emerging world, thanks to COVID-19, is one in which at home, tech connect options will companion in-person social distancing gatherings. Community will be formed and lived in a mixture that combines both elements. It’s an adaptive challenge that we will continue to be asked to accommodate in this pre-vaccine reality.
Is there precedent for such ministry? Perhaps we find it, in some form, in the letters of the Apostle Paul which occupy so much of the New Testament. Paul often wrote to communities he was separated from, sometimes due to his imprisonment, addressing them via messengers who carried and read the letters. He found ways to remind these communities that though separated physically, they were united spiritually. He was mindful of the challenges such circumstances presented, yet he didn’t surrender the cause of Christ to those obstacles. He continually “pressed on” adapting as he went, because he knew the power of the Gospel far exceeded any “light and momentary” troubles he could face.
I have been drawn to Paul’s letters during this time we have been physically apart. They remind me that when we are “in Christ” we are never really apart. I offer that word to you as we continue to move forward in new ways, hybrid ways, and forms of life together.