About a year ago, the Hendricks Center was going through its normal routine. Little did we know that the word “normal” was about to become abnormal. The year of pandemic brought abrupt change. We could no longer pursue our usual community approach, in which we held personal, interactive meetings and conferences.
I’m not telling you anything you haven’t experienced for yourselves! We were forced to pivot. A redesign was required, including uses of technology that we had long contemplated. Now there was no choice. Just as many churches had to go virtual, so did the center.
We held our first completely-online conference in November: Ministry in an Angry Culture. We are planning the building of a resource archive beyond our free The Table podcast to grow our reach beyond people who can personally attend our events. We hope to roll that out in the spring. This is so important to us that we suspended any new events or conferences for the spring so we could reconfigure our ministry.
We did extensive polling of our alumni. We tried to listen to what they want from us. They want biblical resources connected to life. They want materials that help them to live as believers during the week in all the contexts that any day brings. In that context, the faith and work emphasis will remain that we had in much of our work already.
We’re also delighted to collaborate with partners, including the Oikonomia Network. I appreciated being part of a rich discussion during Karam Forum 2021 about the idea of “moving from life to the Bible” in addition to the more established approach in theology of “moving from the Bible to life.”
So what comes next for the Hendricks Center? We will always do our conferences in a way that allows online participation, even after we are able to meet personally again. Using technology to connect will never replace the in-person community approach, but it can allow us to serve and partner with more people at the same time we regrow our “incarnational” connections.
We are developing a program that can take new believers through the core content of scripture in a series that will summarize core biblical content one book at a time. We will also be setting up webinars in association with groups like the Christian Medical and Dental Association to show the overlap between science and faith – not to mention work and faith! These will be interactive and cross-vocational. There will be interviews with faculty about issues that people face. There will be apologetics work on to explain Jesus in a context where many do not understand who he is or how we know.
Our core call remains encouraging people to walk in their faith with an authenticity, compassion and courage that shows God at work in transforming lives. We seek to serve our neighbors and point to the uplifting of the image of God in each of us as we witness to why the gospel makes a difference. The pandemic can’t stop that. The Oikonomia Network is dedicated to that. We relish the opportunity to continue collaborating in the network as we share in this critical, community task.