By Sue Sprang
SYNOD – As COVID-19 blankets us and we move through uncharted territory, the people of God take example from the early Christians and find ways to share the Gospel, even though the odds sometimes seem overwhelming. We can take heart, though, that we do not have to meet “in secret” – in its most literal sense – or that we will be slain by the Romans for gathering for Christian fellowship, study, prayer, or worship.
Unlike our very early ancestors of the Christian faith, we have the luxury of not having to meet in secret. Yes, we are inconvenienced – sometimes to the point of feeling like rubber bands about to snap – but it really is an inconvenience when you put it next to “in secret, but I will die (literally) if I get caught.”
So even though some refer to this situation in which we find ourselves as “A Brave New World” or “the most trying time of all history” – for most of us, especially Christians in the U.S.A., it is not the most dangerous situation in history for us or for the world. Currently, we Christians can use social media, the internet, video chats, etc., to stay in contact with one another. We still worship, study, pray, and have fellowship, albeit not in the forms we enjoy and take for granted. We are also finding ways to stay in touch with, serve, and provide needs for our communities.
Meanwhile… our synod’s staff, pastors, deacons, and church members are finding creative ways to make these much-desired connections happen. What follows are “gleans” from some of our congregations’ web or Facebook sites. Can any be reworked or built upon to meet your congregation’s and community’s needs? Are there other congregations (including churches with whom we are in full communion) with whom you can share any of these offerings?
Decide what mode works for your situation: audio, video, virtual, face chat, etc., and go for it.
(These are in no specific order.)
Sunday school –Bible stories or topics; downloadable activities for kids; participants do art or crafts using whatever is available to them; virtual Sunday school (kids, adults, intergenerational) at its usual Sunday morning time
Lectionary – post upcoming Sunday’s lessons for people to look up or, better yet, supply the entire texts; videos or audios featuring someone reading the lessons
Children’s message – post animated videos for the upcoming Sunday’s children’s messages or videos of someone telling or acting out the upcoming Sunday’s children’s message
Words of encouragement – giving everyone a chance to share their and receive others’ encouragement and inspiration
Daily messages – biblical/inspirational messages from pastor, lay leaders, youth, kids
Visitation – “visit” or lead devotions for shut-ins, nursing home residents, etc.
Bishop – share Bishop Satterlee’s messages
Community connections – keep members of the congregation and community apprised on food distributions, free meals, emergency transportation, and whatever the community needs; provide avenues for community to tell you what it needs
Bible study – give prompts via FB or other sources for people to do their own study; study as a “face-to-face” or audio groups
Daily messages, stories, activities for kids – use borrowed or original resources, props, costumes, puppets, etc., live or pre-recorded, downloadable activities
Teens – keep in touch, keep in touch, keep in touch; involve them and call on them for tech support or to be part of your “productions;” provide a closed forum where they can connect with one another and share their concerns; listen, listen, listen; let them do the talking; don’t judge
Sunday worship – live, during regular worship times; try to do “face-to-face”; include pastor, deacon, lay ministers, acolytes, etc.
Daily prayers – morning and evening prayers, noontime prayers; live or pre-recorded
Drive-in worship – work with AM radio station to gain access, offer drive-in worship in your church parking lot at usual worship times
The church – Keep congregation updated on what the Northwest/Lower Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and their affiliates are saying and doing
Music – share original or other inspirational, meditative, up-dated music, be they hymns or secular; find ways to sing or dance together
This is, for sure, not an exhaustive list. There is more out there and there is more to come.
Meanwhile… if you’ve been lax with your web site, now is the time to use it to its maximum. If you use Facebook, keep it busy. If you’ve been meaning to try Instagram or Twitter, this is a great time to take the leap.
And meanwhile… stay safe, keep others safe, sing, pray, and keep rising above our current inconvenience.