The Making of Pandemic Ponderings
I created devotions based on the Stations of the Cross for Lent 2020 – the beginning of the pandemic. Here’s how that happened along with some personal reflections.
In response to the pandemic and the legal prohibitions from large group gatherings, including church services, our associate pastor invited several persons to lead a five-minute video devotion. One devotion would be shown each day until the Wednesday before Easter. These were created by these persons. then sent to the youth minister who edited them and placed them on our church’s Facebook page and website. I volunteered to do one. I decided to do mine on fellowship and community.
After the first week, the associate pastor invited us to do a second round. I did. Mine would show during Holy Week, so I decided to focus on Simon of Cyrene, as I was reading a book (really a doctoral dissertation) on him at the time.
Simon’s carrying of Jesus’ cross is one of the Stations of the Cross that many churches display in the Lenten season.
This gave me the idea to do a video devotional for the two weeks leading up to Easter, one per day. This was not for my church but as a service of my personal ministry to persons (i.e., everyone!) suffering through the pandemic. I titled these Pandemic Ponderings.
I decided to follow a model that I had used for the Simon of Cyrene video: A question or statement that acted as a lead, a welcome, the scripture of the day, some scriptural or historical background, then three ponderings – one each on Jesus, a character in the story, and ourselves in a pandemic.
Here are some things I learned.
- There are different Stations of the Cross. Before I began doing the videos, I only knew of one kind. It has five stories that are not in the Bible. They are interesting stories- Jesus falls three times, Jesus meets his mother, Mary and Veronica wipes Jesus’ face. Good stories for emotional tug and for spiritual reflection. But until I did some research on the Stations, I did not know that there was also a series that includes only Biblical stories. It was approved by Pope John Paul II on Good Friday 1991, so it is still fairly new (especially compared to the traditional Stations which goes back to 1505). There are 14 stations in each of the series.
- I felt better about using the 1991 version. In one of my videos, I briefly explained the difference between the two.
- I did not have much time to prepare. Indeed, I felt prompted to do the videos on a Sunday night and began doing them the following day. That meant that I did not have the fourteen days to cover the 14 stations, only thirteen, so I combined the 10th (Jesus is put on the cross) with the 11th (Jesus is between two thieves).
- My goal was to do the videos in one take, each being less than 10 minutes. Usually, I had to redo, so it took at least two tries before I got it good enough. I did keep all but two videos within 10 minutes with most in the 6-8 minutes range.
- It took a good while to do the research and my own pondering and writing/editing. I spent about three hours each day, mostly doing that, and twenty minutes of it actually creating the video.
- Before I began, I considered “what is success” for this exercise. I was thinking that if no one watched the first few, there was no need to go through all the Stations, unless I just wanted to do it for personal learning.
- I teach a Bible study each week. We normally run 10-15 persons, so I thought that if I got that many views for each devotion, that would be a success.
- I uploaded the videos at night, so Sunday night I recorded and uploaded the video that was for Monday, etc. I found that people began to watch them within the first few minutes of my posting on Facebook.
- For me, this was an enriching experience in several ways. One, I enjoyed reading the gospel accounts and then reading what scholars and teachers had to say about these passages. Two, I enjoyed experiencing the creativity I needed to make each video a little different from the previous. The texts’ situations usually helped there, because each one is so different from the others. Three, I enjoyed the joy of being productive with a deadline. I needed to do one video per day, so the deadline was always looming. Since retiring from my last ministry, I have not had that pressure. I realized I like “competing with myself” to get the job accomplished on time. Four, I enjoyed the writing experience. I would like to do more writing, but it is sometimes hard to sit down and write. Because I was going to need a daily devotional, I had a clear goal and motivation to meet it. Five, seeing the “likes” – the thumbs-ups and hearts that post readers can give – made me feel very good. Comments, even better.
- I did reach more than the 10-15 I was hoping for. The least views were 60. The most views were 175. (Those are rounded numbers, as the count has continued to grow past the particular day’s devotion.)
- When I was doing the research about the Station of the Cross, I came across information about Stations of the Resurrection – fourteen stories of Jesus between his resurrection and Pentecost. As I was doing the Stations of the Cross devotions, I thought I might go on and do the Resurrection Stations immediately afterward. However, I’ve decided not to do that. Although I enjoyed all the things I mentioned above, it was also exhausting by Easter. (Like church work always is, right?) I am still thinking about doing them, but not one a day. Maybe one a week?
- It is interesting to look back and see how things came together. In a used bookstore, I happen upon this thin volume about Simon of Cyrene. Then, the associate pastor invites persons to lead devotionals and since I am reading this book, I decide to have Simon as my subject. As I prepare, I realize that I also want to focus on what Jesus was going through – and then bring an encouraging word about our lives in this pandemic. So, I had an outline. That made it easier for me to jump into doing the other devotions so quickly – I had the Stations as an overall outline and I had an outline of headings for the daily devotionals.
- I have made videos before with my phone, so I already had a tripod and lapel mic. The new part was learning how to upload it to Facebook and to YouTube.
- It was wonderful to be connected as a minister again to some persons I have known since I was on their church’s staff 30 years ago as well as others whom I’ve only recently befriended.