When I first met with the congregation at Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church in early March, Covid-19 had not yet fully hit, and it was assumed my official call to the church would take place in person.
However, in just two weeks, things had abruptly changed. No longer able to gather in-person, the congregation had to quickly figure out how to call a new pastor to the church, then how to worship and commune together during what would become the “new normal.”
They jumped into action, contacting every church member to teach them how to use Zoom for a virtual congregational meeting, where – with great joy — I was “virtually” called to be their pastor.
Wow, I thought, clearly this group knows the meaning of working together in community! Still, we knew that maintaining the sort of strong community people are hungry for – while in the midst of a terrible, physically isolating virus – could be challenging, especially as our congregation contains members from around the Coastal Empire, from Richmond Hill out to Liberty County.
How could folks receive prayer, stay connected, hear a word of hope? The fellowship component is especially crucial to a smaller congregation, and from the get-go, technology proved to be the surprising means to an end.
We decided to offer our Sunday worship services, including a reflection time before worship, weekly Bible studies, prayer group and confirmation classes live, via Zoom, rather than pre-recorded. We even share the sacrament of communion over Zoom.
After I bless the bread and wine, folks prepare their own bread and wine at home and commune within their households. The second-oldest member of our congregation is 89 years old and a dedicated church council member.
He wouldn’t be able to attend these happenings, were they held in-person. Now he can enjoy participating from his couch if he chooses – just like everyone else!
Covid-19 could have caused our congregation to diminish but, because folks have been willing to be creative and step forward, we’ve actually grown! We’re grateful for the gift of technology which, by God’s leading, we’ve learned how to use as an excellent tool for bringing people together. For us, building community doesn’t stop with the Spirit of Peace congregation.
Our desire is to extend a true sense of community to all of our sisters and brothers across the area. In October, we had the opportunity to do just that during New Life Community Church’s initiative, Treats for the Streets, when area subdivisions were visited by members of various churches, walking or driving in a socially distanced “reverse trick-or-treat”
Halloween parade. Kids watched from the end of their driveways while we brought candy to them. In one subdivision, a group of teenagers riding by in a golfcart asked the group what was going on.
When told they were preparing a Halloween parade for the neighborhood children, the teens said they’d like to join in and help. A simple outreach project that, once again, showed us all it really can be more fun to give than to receive!