He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making all things new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
We’re not the same. My church, like just about everything else, has been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s more than taking a break from congregational singing, missing friends who are still minding their social distance, and the presence of a camera in worship. You might even say that many churches have been hauled, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the twenty-first century. We have mastered new technology, found new ways to communicate, and grown adept at the use of social media. While much of what is familiar and comfortable persists, it’s a brave new world out there for churches. God is doing a new thing.
Recognizing that small churches need to change or will decline, the PC(USA) Synod of the Northeast has sponsored an innovative grant: Hybrid Outreach for Small Churches. Congregations in seven Presbyteries have been selected to work with a consultant for a year, who will coach them on reaching out in new ways. This church is blessed to be one of the seven churches chosen to participate.
Our consultant John Fong is a swirl of creativity, bold ideas, and encouragement. He also loves to laugh. John believes in evangelism for a new age that invites others to come along on our faith journey through simple acts of kindness and friendship.
If you are wondering what that might look like, consider our Palm Sunday Resurrection Gardens craft—church families and friends made table-top gardens that represent the events of Holy Week. Half of the people who made gardens at church or at home were members, and half were not, drawn into the life of the church through personal invitations and the power of Facebook. In fact, our Facebook post about the project went viral, reaching more than 2,000 people. Now, that’s some serious outreach.
I’m joined in our hybrid outreach work by Elder Chenelle Palyswiat and some of the church’s communication mavens—Peter Wilson, Anita Estling, and Duane Gould. We’ve got more projects in the pipeline, like a “Grow-a-Row” initiative to invite local gardeners to join us in growing veggies for the Food Pantry. We’re also planning a “Cookie Bomb.” Yes, it is just as exciting and delicious as it sounds. Just wait and see.
As we emerge from the chaos of pandemic, God is doing a new thing in and through us. It sounds like the work of the risen Lord, who promises to make all things new. May the Lord be doing new — and blessed — things for you and your faith community, too.
“Begin the Day”
—Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“Begin each morning with a talk to God,
And ask for your divine inheritance
Of usefulness, contentment, and success.
Resign all fear, all doubt, and all despair.
The stars doubt not, and they are undismayed,
Though whirled through space for countless centuries,
And told not why or wherefore: and the sea
With everlasting ebb and flow obeys,
And leaves the purpose with the unseen Cause.
The star sheds radiance on a million worlds,
The sea is prodigal with waves, and yet
No lustre from the star is lost, and not
One drop is missing from the ocean tides.
Oh! brother to the star and sea, know all
God’s opulence is held in trust for those
Who wait serenely and who work in faith.”