Impact of COVID-19 and vaccinations on Communities of Faith
Two rural Lutheran churches value livestreaming
Once COVID hit, Lutheran churches in Davenport and Egypt were unable to do in-person worship for six weeks and began livestreaming worship then, said Stacey Friedlein, pastor of Zion Lutheran in Davenport and Christ Lutheran in Egypt.
They discovered that 150 to 200 people joined by livestreaming. Even when the churches were back to in-person worship, they continued to livestream, because they can reach more people than they could before COVID. "That is great for our rural churches," he said.
Stacey estimates that 90 percent at Egypt are vaccinated, because the youngest members are in their 50s. At Zion, about 50 percent are. He finds few people resist vaccinations.
"People realize it is something we have to do to get back to a normal life. Most people think it's good to be vaccinated," he said.
A county health nurse, who is in the congregation, has been "a good guide for us to find a vaccination site and be informed about what is going on," Stacey said, adding that the local hospital keeps the community educated.
"Vaccinations make a difference in terms of people feeling comfortable about safety, needing to mask or distance," he said.
COVID meant the churches were unable to do vacation Bible school, which is an outreach to children in the community. The youth did not gather. The church was unable to offer Bible studies at a retirement center. Funerals that were postponed have now been rescheduled, Stacey said.
"The online ministry is new for us," he said. "Rather than in the sanctuary, sitting at table for the online ministry was difficult, but our ability to reach people through Facebook and Zoom enhanced our reach to people outside the community across the country, connecting so we can still feed people and involve people on Sunday mornings or for our weekly Bible studies."
The churches organized a call team to contact members on a regular basis to keep in touch. Although they were unable to gather to see people, they kept up ties.
As for food security, between the food bank and other efforts, folks get the food they need. The food bank was able to continue to make food available.
Through the local ministerial alliance, churches helped maintain funds for a Bite 2 Go program to continue to assure that children have meals on weekends.
Stacey sees that the dynamics for families changed.
"Families are doing more together, communicating better, worshipping together at home, at the dining table or in the living room," he said. "We shared spirituality in a way that was not happening before COVID."
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree,June, 2021