Virtual Town Halls
COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we communicate throughout the Church. But Bishop-elect Deon Johnson isn't letting a pandemic get in the way of introducing himself. Instead, our bishop-elect is using technology to get to know people in all corners of the Diocese of Missouri.
Bishop-elect Deon and the Rev. Canon Doris Westfall are holding virtual town hall meetings at various parishes outside the St. Louis metro area. The online gatherings began in early April and will continue throughout the month.
"I particularly wanted to do this to hear the hopes and dreams of the community," said Bishop-elect Deon. "But I also want to ensure that they know they are not alone and certainly not forgotten."
"This is a really good start," says Canon Doris, who remembers many comments from the walkabouts during the bishop search process about parishes feeling left out. Those comments were voiced again at the April 6 town hall meeting with All Saints' in Farmington.
"The diocese feels large and disconnected," said Sondra Kekec, All Saints' music director. "I feel we lack a sense of unity."
"We are large geographically," replied Bishop-elect Deon, "but we are one church in more than 40 locations." The Bishop-elect says he is hearing a longing to be and feel more connected with the life of the diocese along with building the bonds they already have with each other.
The sessions also offer members a chance to talk about what's most on their minds right now. At Christ Church in Cape Girardeau, the pandemic and wondering what will happen next dominated the conversation.
"It was a good idea," said the Rev. Edie Bird, rector at Christ Church. "Our parish is very excited to talk with the bishop-elect, especially our newer members, but older members, too."
Before the stay-at-home orders were issued in March, Canon Doris says she and the Bishop-elect had planned to travel in-person to all the parishes outside the metro area. The pair felt it was important to follow through with the meetings, even if they have to be through a computer screen.
"These are life-giving for me since it begins to build a relationship with members of the Diocese of Missouri," Bishop-elect Deon said.
The Virtual Town Hall meetings include:
- Christ Church, Cape Girardeau
- All Saints', Farmington
- St. John's, Eolia and Calvary, Louisiana
- St. Paul's, Sikeston
- Holy Cross, Poplar Bluff
- Trinity/St. Paul's, Hannibal
- Trinity, Kirksville
Although his consecration has been moved from April 25 to June 13, Bishop-elect Deon plans to move forward with his bishop visitation schedule, beginning in May. Those visitations will remain virtual until the stay-at-home orders are lifted.