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Eagle Harbor pastor describes its in-person/hybrid life

Eagle Harbor UCC on Bainbridge Island began meeting in person at half capacity on Pentecost Sunday, May 30, taking reservations via Sign Up Genius.

Top, Eagle Harbor UCC choir sings wearing performance masks.

 Below, members returning from Sept. 26 CROP Walk gather around the church’s “Blessings Arch.”

Photos courtesy of Dee Eisenhauer

When the state guidelines shifted, by July they were no longer signing up to attend in person and began to be fully open in person.

“We have been attentive to Washington state public health recommendations,” said Dee Eisenhauer, the pastor.

The masking practice has remained consistent with all participants masked unless speaking or singing at the microphone in a leadership capacity.

As people come in they sign in to report that they do not have symptoms, have not been exposed, are vaccinated and where to contact them.

“We have had to forgo eating at a coffee hour. The worshiping community attends without distancing because the sanctuary is not big enough,” said Dee. “We also have an online option. We chose early to do livestreaming.”

Meetings include two Bible studies online, a book club that is in person or online, and the board is also hybrid—in person and on Zoom.

“We borrowed the senior center which has a big screen so people at the meeting can see each other better,” Dee said. “We spent money on equipment so we could do live screen webcasts in the sanctuary and watch live stream projections.

The church has also restarted its choir, buying performance masks, that look like duck bills, giving space for projecting their voices. The choir rehearses and performs distanced.

“We have had the finances to do it because people have been generous,” she said. “Money can solve some problems.”

Dee’s husband, computer expert, John, does tech work and consults with nearby churches.

When people enter they patiently wait in line to sign in.  They note if they have any symptoms, exposure, vaccination and contact information.

Dee said that close to 100 percent of those coming are vaccinated, but the church does not require vaccination to attend.  It does require that the choir is vaccinated.

“Overall, our congregation has weathered COVID well,” she said, noting she has observed a rise in loneliness and frustration at deferral of funerals and memorials.”

Rather than focusing on what’s not possible, she has been using the “Bless to Me” series of Worship Design Studio materials of Marcia McFee, to which the church has subscribed for seven years, combining the core ideas with her own.

Recently the congregation has circulated a blessing box with prayers taken house to house. Members take a prayer and add one. 

The church also set up a blessing arch outside, where people post their prayers, and instead of a coffee hour fills a “giving table” with produce, crafts and other gifts people want to share.

“It’s important to keep generosity on the front burner,” she said. “It gives a reason to come into the fellowship hall.”

While attendance has been nearly back to pre-pandemic level, Dee said that her focus has been on engagement, keeping people engaged.

“We had hoped by fall we would be back to normal.  That would have been heavenly,” Dee said, sighing.

Sept. 26, church members joined in the Interfaith Council’s CROP WALK, which had been done virtually and independently last year.  This year about a quarter the number of previous years walked and raised $5,700.  That amount was matched 2:1 by an anonymous donor.

The Bainbridge CROP Walk raised more than $33,000 this year for Church World Service and two local food banks, said Dee, adding that it has raised nearly $1 million over several decades.

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Copyright © Fall 2021 - Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News


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