Reflecting on COVID-19: A New Tool to Support Change in your Congregation

October 20, 2020Amy Asin

When I shared the cartoon above at the URJ Biennial in December 2019 (read my full address here), a lot of people in attendance found it pretty funny.
They all had a sense that change was necessary, but they were often held back by people’s unwillingness to change. This resistance made the job of leading change undesirable, so running away felt like a good option.

Looking at it now brings back memories of a time when we made the assumption that we had a choice – to change or not to change. That feels like a quaint idea now – or does it?

As a Movement, you’ve all done some amazing things since mid-March: online services, calling every congregant, providing opportunities for informal engagement, meditation and song sessions, study groups, book groups. And most of all, together we created meaningful remote High Holiday services. Estimates of people logging on to High Holiday services across all Jewish movements (of which the Reform movement is the largest) near 2 million.

While we might have empathized with not wanting to lead change, we have actually done it. Now our job is to make sure we don’t go back.

Remember, my plea to create deeper change came in December, before COVID-19 hit. Back then we were not happy with the way things were; we were starting to see more congregations with declining attendance, tighter and tighter budgets. Transformational change was needed then – and it is no less needed now.

We feel disrupted now because we are uncomfortable and unsettled, and we are grieving so much of what we’ve lost to the pandemic. But we have not truly created deep and meaningful change if we are contemplating a choice to go back to the way things were – and the world will not let us. Like it or not, from now on, we will be a hybrid society, both in-person and virtual at the same time.

We were headed in this direction before COVID-19. Now, we cannot resist the forces of change that have accelerated turning a “hybrid world” into a permanent state. The cartoon still holds. We must choose to lead change and build back stronger.

To help you in these efforts, the URJ has created our COVID-19 Reflection Tool for congregational leadership, and we’re asking you to consider signing up to join a network of congregational leaders committed to transformational and potentially disruptive change in your communities.

The URJ COVID-19 Reflection Tool is available now. It gives your leadership team an opportunity to go through a multi-step process on your own or, if you choose, with a URJ facilitator.

  1. L’chagog: Celebrate what you have accomplished since mid-March.
  2. L’harheir: Reflect on where you’ve made progress on new success measures, on five shifts necessary for success in a hybrid world, and on the depth of your change, as well as what you need to stop
  3. L’chalom: Imagine what is still possible going forward.
  4. La-asot: Make a commitment to act, and consider joining others in a networks of innovators launching in early 2021.

Download the reflection tool now to begin. You may not want change, and you may not want to change, but to thrive in the world we live in now, you have to be willing to lead change – and we at the URJ are eager to walk that path with you.

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