“Some Summer Thoughts and Questions”
I am the first to admit – it’s been a long fifteen months since COVID-19 became an everyday word for the world. Never in my lifetime have I seen things come to a screeching halt in the blink of an eye. Restaurants closed. Doctors performed annual physicals and exams over the internet. Schools zoomed classes, and most people began to work from home. Most distressing, however, was to watch and experience the closing of churches, and in fact, almost all houses of worship. I used the word ‘distressing’ but probably a better word to use would be ‘terrifying.’
Now, just as many churches did, St. John’s quickly developed a superb on-line worship experience. With the help of Brink Norton as our videographer, and numerous volunteers, we were on-line with a worship experience in less than 10 days. My thanks to everyone who assisted me each week to make these worship experiences possible.
As I write this article, it is late June and the circumstances in which we live, and worship are changing. We now have both in-person and live-streaming worship services. And as wonderful as this new reality is for us, it poses some challenges and questions. To begin with, we are in serious need of volunteers. During the pandemic, as people sheltered at home and ‘watched’ church, the demand signal for volunteers diminished. But now, as we open back up and offer more services and more ministry opportunities, the demand and need for many more volunteers is evident. We are straining and stretching those who volunteered through these 15 months. Now it is time for all of us to consider what we can do to help with the ministries of our church as we re-open. We will be involved in a formal “Time and Talent” program shortly, but please don’t wait till then. If you can assist, please speak with me, Bob Pickard, or Mike Andersen immediately. Please consider lending your skill, gifts, and talents to the ministries of our church. As the old story says, “Anybody could have done it. Somebody should have done it. Nobody did it.” That ought not be our story. As you volunteer, we become more active.
I mentioned earlier in this article our live stream / video worship experience. When we first began this new ministry, we saw an extraordinary number of people were tuning in to worship with us. Hundreds and hundreds of viewers were worshipping with us. As things have returned to a more normal situation, those numbers are declining. Perhaps it is because people are returning to in-person church. Perhaps it is because the novelty of St. John’s on the internet has worn off. Perhaps it is simply indicative of the fact that people are doing things other than worshipping God now that it is safer to be out and about. Religious research is telling church leaders two things: 1) internet worship experiences are here to stay, as many people want to worship anonymously and conveniently; and 2) churches ought to expect a 40% decline in their attendance and participation numbers. Please say it’s not so! When we gather for worship in the sanctuary, we become the body of Christ both at worship and in service to others. It’s hard to get that feeling and experience over the internet. Internet services were always intended as a temporary measure, and then, as a means for people who were physically incapable of being present to experience worship. I suspect no church thinks their internet and live stream services were created for convenience. Rather, they were created to keep us in contact with each other through worship. With that said, some questions:1) have you experienced internet worship at St. John’s? 2) what were your feelings and experiences about worshipping in this way? 3) does having the opportunity to worship on-line at any time make you less likely to attend the in-person services? 4) do you think St. John’s should invest funds to increase our social media footprint, as well as making live streaming worship services a part of our weekly ministry going forward? As you think about these questions, please share your thoughts with me, Bob Pickard, or Chris Tant.
And finally, many of us want to get back to what ‘normal’ once looked like, although a realistic comment made at our last Vestry meeting stated ‘it’s possible this might be the normal we come to know.’ I am currently working on a timeline to help us return as quickly as possible to what we think is normal church. You’ll be seeing this timeline implemented in the coming weeks and months. Until then, and always, please let me know what’s on your mind, and let’s do everything we can to renew ourselves and the ministries Christ calls us to.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts to the questions before us.
Pastor Butler +