Church community grows through online worship, prayer

Churches during COVID-19 are pressed to be more creative now to sustain their faith communities. Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in Ballard has found these unforeseen times to be both challenging and beneficial. As the church moves forward, Pastors Kathy Hawks and Gretchen Mertes are working to engage the congregation and achieve a form of togetherness in the community despite the pandemic.

Above is the church renovation rendering that they intend to begin this summer. Photo provided by Our Redeemer’s.

After church gatherings were restricted Our Redeemer’s quickly moved online using the virtual communication platform, Zoom, and simultaneously streaming to Facebook. Zoom provided a solution for both the tech-savvy user and the telephone user. Some church members choose to dial in to church services without needing to be connected to a computer.

This was not the first time that Redeemer’s had taken a virtual step online. They had previously live-streamed some worship services through Facebook before COVID-19.

From worship services, prayer, or community life groups, Our Redeemer’s has been prolific with their transition to online alternatives. A new initiative, Circles of Connection, gives church members the opportunity to check in, have discussion about the previous Sunday’s sermon, and to pray so members can stay connected. Friendship Calls, a program that entails church members making phone calls to high-risk individuals (those over 60 or who are immune-compromised), was created to reach out to those who are most isolated.

Both Pastors have seen church members continuing to participate and reach out on their own without the direction of the church leaders. Even though the community is accustomed to gathering together in person, the Pastors have noticed how the congregation is demonstrating strength and perseverance during the transition. From greeting cards to phone calls, the Caring Community Team, is a group of motivated individuals determined to provide support and encouragement during this time.

“Our Sunday attendance online is at least as strong if not stronger. We have some folks that worship regularly with us that we have never met in person but who have started coming. They’ve even emailed us and said ‘Hey when this is all over we want to be a part of what you’re all about’.” — Pastor Kathy Hawks

Though the church anticipated challenges with finances because of COVID-19, people have adjusted and responded by continuing to give in a variety of ways to keep the church financially strong and viable.

“Our Sunday attendance online is at least as strong if not stronger. We have some folks that worship regularly with us that we have never met in person but who have started coming. They’ve even emailed us and said ‘Hey when this is all over we want to be a part of what you’re all about’,” Hawks said.

During this time, the church has released an album of music called Advent, Epiphany, Lent: Settings for the Beginning of the Liturgical Year.

Some traditional programs that the church does had to be adjusted, including a week-long summer retreat and family camp. This summer the retreat will involve the usual family social events, classes, and engaging activities. The difference is that the program will be an online event incorporating new and creative ways of being together.

“In some ways there are some traditions that we have done for a lot of years that we now have an opportunity to breathe some new life into,” Hawks said.

Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has brought, Our Redeemer’s has turned these times into opportunities for growth, creativity and connection.

Listen to the album the church released here.

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