Impact of COVID-19 and vaccinations on Communities of Faith
Newport Lutheran church made faith central
American Lutheran Church in Newport pared back and realized their response to COVID did not have to be about business and programs.
"It could reflect our heart—that focusing on God's grace is what matters and the care we show one another and our community is what holds us together," said Janine Goodrich, who has served since 2005 as pastor of the church with her husband, Matt.
During COVID, the congregation was not able to worship the same way they were used to. Most worship has been online. They had a small gathering for in-person worship, but were not able to sing or do coffee hour.
"With in-person worship a few people came and wanted to worship in the sanctuary," Janine said. "They did mask protocols, but people missed the fellowship and social events."
Throughout the year, they offered Wednesday evening services, as well as a Monday morning Bible Study online, and an online coffee hour after church.
"We set up calling trees to keep people connected and to remind them they belong to a community," she said, "but we missed the opportunity to be together and give hugs," said Janine.
They usually have a summer day camp, women's circle and men's group, and are looking to outdoor options for gathering those groups over the summer.
Last summer, they had worship and some other gatherings outside, this summer, they are doing the same. People bring lawn chairs and umbrellas when it's hot. If it's raining, they do inside.
They have continued offering Second Harvest Mobile Markets throughout the year. However, people no longer come inside, where they sit, visit and enjoy coffee and cookies while waiting, because the markets are now all drive-through because of COVID
"COVID changed the fellowship we had at those events. Now instead we stop and chat with people in their cars," Janine said.
She estimates vaccination rates in the congregation are 50 to 75 percent, with probably 25 percent hold outs. The community rate is much lower," she said.
"In the congregation, most are grateful to be able to be together again as vaccination rates rise, Janine said, "but some are still anxious about gatherings."
The health district did drive-throughs at the rodeo grounds to vaccinate people. The church sent out information on email and encouraged members to go.
"We believe the vaccines are part of what will make it possible to be together again in familiar ways," Janine said. "We are also grateful for the people who have come to us and found grace in our midst through our online presence as well. We know that will also continue to be a part of our life together in the future."
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2021