I serve as pastor of the Rowayton United Methodist Church, and we have been adapting as well as we can to the challenges of ministry during the pandemic. Our understanding of church is that we are a resource to the community, and so we have tried to live that out in finding new ways to support our neighbors.
For the last three weeks, we have been having our weekly 10 a.m. Sunday morning worship services online. Initially, my thought was to record myself reading scripture and offering an accompanying inspirational sermon, and then uploading it for congregants to watch at their convenience. I reconsidered after mulling over the impact of social isolation that has been so difficult for so many of us. Ours is a small community, and I realized that one of the most important reasons for online worship is to encourage, support and care for as many people as we can. We ended up conducting worship via Zoom, in particular because when we pray, it allows anyone in worship with us to raise up a concern, and we are able to pray together as a community. Everyone present can hear what is said, and everyone’s voices come together, saying “Lord, hear our prayer.” The sense of community created was so strong that when worship is over, people requested that we leave Zoom open for a Virtual Coffee Hour.
The clearest silver lining is that attendance is UP from where it had been. People have been worshipping with us that we rarely see due to a wide range of circumstances—and yet in a time of isolation, we are experiencing community as strongly as ever. We’ve also started an online community prayer gathering at 8 a.m. Wednesdays, and this has included people that I’d never met before. A good church should benefit its community, and I am proud that we are able to facilitate bringing people hope and connection.
This has been a very challenging time for churches, as social isolation affects most of the ways we work, necessitating learning and discovering new ways to minister to people effectively. Our building is closed and I am working from my home office — quite an adjustment for a vocation predicated on personal relationships.
I was on a conference call two weeks ago with Norwalk public officials and was impressed by the level of coordination, commitment and resources pulled together to support all manner of congregational activity in a variety of faith traditions. This may be another silver lining — in a time when so many of us are isolated in our own corner of the world, I would welcome this time fostering a new commitment to interfaith cooperation and partnership with local government to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of the community. The work is difficult and most of us are under resourced, but by working together we can make a bigger positive difference for a wider range of people. That is my prayer — that this experience of isolation will result in greater connection than ever before.
Grace and peace,