By Carol Knight, Cokesbury North Carolina Conference Resource Consultant
Shelter-in-place has become the “new norm” for folks throughout most of the country and the world. In the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were reacting to the ever-changing scene in our lives and in our churches. Uncertainty, grief and fear were some of the frequent emotions we were feeling. “Fear is a good gift,” says Adam Hamilton in Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times. “It helps us detect a danger or threat.” He adds, it’s important to “look to see how our faith can play a role in our fears.”
As a Cokesbury Conference Resource Consultant, I’ve seen firsthand how these fears are being overcome by the churches, pastors and Christian educators in our Conference. These servants have taken crash courses in video streaming and are transitioning worship, Bible studies, meetings and youth groups to virtual gatherings via platforms such as Facebook, Skype, Zoom and Amplify Media.
At this point in time, they have quickly shifted in many cases from reactive to proactive. This isn’t just in our Conference. I am hearing from my colleagues throughout the country about the creative ministry approaches their church partners are taking. They are “looking to see how our faith can play a role in our fears.”
Easter happenings from South Carolina to Tennessee to Ohio include:
- First Presbyterian, Monroe, GA and Journey Church in South Carolina offered “drive-in” worship for Easter, where members stayed in their cars in the parking lot, while the minister preached over a loudspeaker.
- Christ UMC in South Carolina mailed Easter kits to the kids…with a Deep Blue Kids activity book and plastic Easter eggs.
- Piney Grove UMC, in Arkansas left Palm Branches for pick up in an easy-to-reach location. Parents were asked to send videos of their children waving the palms.
- Camden First in South Carolina and Maple Grove UMC in Ohio prepared bags that included Holy Week items, with prepackaged communion sets that families collected.
- Some churches are hosted a drive through Easter Egg Hunt and stations of the cross.
Now that churches and pastors have a few of “Shelter-in-Place” weeks under their belts, they can engage in longer-term planning from post-Easter worship and studies to more online Sunday School to VBS reimagining. It’s important to keep the connection and activity moving beyond the joy of Easter. These recommendations of “Books to Read in Anxious Times” could be helpful as your planning continues: https://www.cokesbury.com/books-to-read-in-anxious-times?pagenumber=1.
Additional activities that fall into post-Easter planning include:
- Salem UMC, Greenville, SC is using Zoom to teach confirmation class.
- Cedar Lane UMC, Knoxville, TN is hosting a drive-by food pantry.
- St. Luke UMC, Sanford, NC is sharing video posts on Facebook for the kids…each with a different theme. One week was prayer.
- One church in Albemarle, NC is doing a prayer bead ministry.
- Corona Buddies is an intergenerational ministry where an older individual is paired with a family. The families call three to five times per week and check in, run errands, drop off goodies/cards/gifts. It is morphing into something special.
- Some churches are playing songs from their upcoming VBS on Zoom in the evenings during their children’s devotions.
- Salem UMC, Evansville, IN has compiled a list of members’ phone numbers and e-mails and assigned people in groups of three or four to check on each other every other day. They are also sending out a one-page newsletter with up-to-date information twice a week.
- New gatherings have been created by Main Street UMC, Booneville, IN including 10 at 10 on Tuesdays (10 minutes of prayer with the pastor every Tuesday at 10 a.m.) and Wednesday Words of Wisdom, focusing on a different word each week.
- A group from multiple churches in Lafayette, IN visited a local hospital to pray for all the healthcare workers. Their cars were parked with flashers on, so hospital staff knew prayers were being said on their behalf.
- First UMC, Graham, NC is offering Zoom Time with Kids at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, with different themes, games and prayer.
- Jarvis Memorial in Greenville, NC is offering a Thursday Night Zoom Party for kids and a Wednesday night Zoom Gathering with encouragement and prayer for adults.
Couple with this list the number of free, digital resources available, along with myriad streaming options and the inspired choices are many. (Check out Cokesbury’s free resources here: https://www.cokesbury.com/teaching-and-learning-free-resources.)
Please be reminded that I am also here to help equip you with resources to make disciples, share ideas, and lend a listening ear. Thank you for letting me be a partner in your ministry always, but especially during this season of challenge.
Take heart and believe, “I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (CEB)
Carol Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.