Coming through COVID I: Communities of Practice

By Dr. Robbie Lloyd

“Coming through COVID” is very strong message that we all share with each other these days. It is understandable after more than a year of lock downs, watching many people suffer all over the world, waiting for a vaccine, and wondering when will it all be over.

This message also carries timely echoes from some well worn uses of the expression “coming through.”

Coming through can mean “continuing to exist despite difficulties.” It can also mean “doing what is expected and making the grade,” and “successfully achieving a pleasing result.” In the arts it is used to mean that an artist’s personality came through in their work. And in communication terms it means “the message came through loud and clear.”

For Christians at this time of year, preparing for Easter and Palm Sunday on 28 March, it is a time to reflect on the conflicted messages in the journey of Jesus coming through Jerusalem.

Some thought he was going to lead a revolution against the Romans and end the occupation. Others felt a surge of something spiritually uplifting was about to burst forth, as Old Testament scripture (Zechariah 9:9 and 14:4) predicted the Messiah would arrive from the Mount of Olives through the East Gate.

Ultimately Jesus was coming through to his death, and the crowds proved to be very human and fluctuating in their allegiance to this “saviour” who came through on a humble donkey. It was over to the early Christians to come together and help each other survive from them on, carrying the messages of love, compassion and forgiveness that Jesus had taught them.

With everything we know about what happened in ancient times and now today, for us to “come through” the unpredictable way life rolls, we need to do it Together and we need to Actively Care for each other.

Catholic schools and parishes are perfect places to express this care, especially as we come through to the other side of COVID. And a modern expression for how this can work is to form a Community of Practice. This is simply a group of people with a clear intention and passion to work together on a set of activities that they all believe in, and to get organised to be able to keep learning how to do things in mutually supportive ways.

You can read more about this concept developed by French Canadian anthropologist Etienne Wenger in the late 80s and early 90s:

That sounds a bit like a Pastoral Care Plan for a local parish, or the way schools can decide to take on caring for the elderly, the homeless, those with mental health challenges, and so on.

This Easter season, if you believe your community is going to come through COVID stronger and more intentionally connected to each other, perhaps consider exploring setting up your own Community of Practice to make that idea a practical reality.