In a year plagued by a pandemic that kept people apart, Hope Lutheran Church employed some high-tech, as well as traditional, ways to keep its community together.
Pastor Laverne Hautz says that as increasing public health guidelines began to limit, then stop, communal gatherings across the province, members from his congregation with technical skills quickly moved into action to offer online Sunday services.
“Almost on the first Sunday, we had our services recorded and posted to Facebook,” Pastor Hautz says.
He also undertook sending out mass emails three times a week to church members.
“Because our church name is Hope Lutheran, I called the email on Mondays Hope For Today, which was a Bible verse to give people hope and encouragement,” he says.
On Wednesdays, Pastor Hautz sent out Weekly Encouragement, a brief message designed to bridge the gap between the weekdays and Sunday services.
And on Fridays, he sent out prayer requests.
“I found that with three emails a week, I could be very current,” he says.
He also invited people to what he called “My Living Room,” a Zoom (Internet video chat) meeting to foster connections and provide a medium for discussion.
But aware there were some, mostly elderly members, who did not have home computers and Internet connections, Pastor Hautz initiated a phone circle, kicked off by some of the church’s already established groups.
“This proved to be a way of connecting and caring for one another when isolation was pretty intense at the beginning of last April and May,” he says.
“It was the worst for widows and widowers,” he adds, “they didn’t have anyone else in their house to have conversations with.
They were one of the target groups for the phone circles. And I’d also personally deliver printed copies of my sermon to some homes where people were happy to have that face-to-face contact.”
And as gathering restrictions continued into the Christmas season, Pastor Hautz developed “I’ll be home for Christmas,” an online delivery of the Christmas Eve service.
“We had about 50 people from our church participate by reading video recorded portions of the Christmas story from the Bible, plus audio recordings of people singing carols,” he says.
“And for the singing of the closing song, Silent Night, we had about 30 people record one line at a time, which was patched together beautifully.”
Encouraged by how these new methods helped retain a sense of community and connection, plans are to continue with the online services.
“The pandemic has gently nudged us into the 21st century,” Pastor Hautz says. “I even had one member in their 80s tell me, ‘You know pastor, it feels just like being at church.’”
For more information about how you can connect with Hope Lutheran Church, visit hopelcs.ca.