Have you seen that meme on social media: “The church is not empty…the church has been deployed!” Here in Central New York, even as we grieve and struggle, Episcopalians are also rising to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeking and sharing God, teaching and learning, and caring for each other and our wider communities—mostly from home.
Here’s a few ideas from around our diocese that are worth sharing and worth carrying forward even when in-person gatherings resume:
Drop-in office hours: Clergy are hosting “drop-in office hours” on Zoom. Pick a regular time you can commit to being present for prayer and conversation with whoever shows up. Share the Zoom link and be prepared for the Holy Spirit!
Small group meetings: That Zoom account you got for Sunday worship? It works all week, so share it with your mens’ group, knitting group, poetry-lovers group, book club, prayer chain members, youth group, etc!
Prayer partners: Connect pairs of congregants together to be in prayer partnership. Prayer partners can check in regularly with one another in a way that works for them, and commit to praying for one another. They might even call each other once a week to pray one of the Daily Offices together.
Facebook group: Set up a closed Facebook group for your parish, where members can stay in conversation all weekly long.
Calling ministry: Commission volunteers to check in regularly on other members of the congregation with a friendly phone call, a handwritten card, or an email.
Services during the week: We’re seeing that folks love connecting with their congregation throughout the week. Consider adding a weekday service to your church’s online offerings: Morning Prayer, or Compline. Rotate leadership of these services among members of the congregation.
Sharing photos: We miss each other and when we don’t meet in-person regularly, it’s not as easy to stay up-to-date on each others’ lives. Encourage your parishioners to send in pictures of themselves, their families, their daily lives or places they’ve seen resurrection during the week. Include their photos and stories in your email newsletter or make a slideshow to share during your Sunday online service.
Prayers of the people: Encourage people to call or email with prayer requests or even create a Google Form like this one that you can embed on your website. Include these prayers in your online worship services and in your own daily prayers.
Sunday School continues: Send out Sunday School lessons and family worship resources to families each week (check out how St. James’, Skaneateles is doing it), or use Zoom’s Breakout Rooms feature to hold Sunday School online.
Medical supplies and toiletries: If your church has been able to continue operating your food pantry or community meal program, consider stocking and sharing medical supplies and toiletries, especially soap and hygiene items.
For more great ideas and conversations, please check out: