Worship in times of COVID

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Mrs.Anteater

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Hmm, you asked ministers which is good if you are wondering how they are doing.

Then you listed a while bunch of items which are the role of council and congregation.

I'm curious if you were implying that all those items were the role of the minister?
I am affiliated with Quaker, where there aren’t any paid ministers. So, no, theoretically not. But the UCC I was at before would very much expect the minister to at least organize and think of all this. In these times, my hunch would be that they would be going back to expecting the minister to do even more “ since he/ she is now sitting idle”.

I remember we once had a really bad snow storm shutting things down for a while. I made it to church, which of course was not happening, and I was worried about people living alone without power or needing someone to dig them out. I mentioned that to the people present - if there would be a plan/ way to ensure people are safe- there wasn’t. Since contact information was not available “ for confidentiality reasons”, I couldn’t really do anything myself.
 

revsdd

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We record our worship service on Friday afternoon at 3:00 (5 of us - 2 ministers, music director, soloist and techie) and make the link live on our website at around our normal time of 10:30 on Sunday morning. We're getting about 200-250 hits on the link. Some will be bots, but others will also represent more than one person watching, so I'd guess more people are watching us online than come to our services (our average in person attendance is about 140 over the course of the year.) My ministry colleague and I have divided up the church membership list and are phoning the entire membership. I make 5-6 pastoral phone calls per day Monday-Thursday. This is, in all honesty, probably more pastoral care time than my actual call sets aside for me. I suggested the establishment of a phone tree, so that we have about 20 lay people who have also taken a portion of the membership list and are in more regular contact with the membership. We established a church Facebook group to encourage more interaction than our previous Facebook page encouraged. I am conducting a weekly Bible study. I post the passage with study questions on the Facebook group on Tuesday, do about a 20 minute Facebook Live video to the group offering my thoughts on the passage on Wednesday and then host a Zoom group Bible study on Thursday night. The format has worked well. We usually get about 35-40 people watching the video and about 10 who join me on Zoom, and it has engaged people (both through watching the video and joining the Zoom group) who probably wouldn't take part in a face to face Bible study. My colleague handles the Church School and she and her husband deliver materials to the homes of our chidren each week. Some families post pictures of their families engaging the material in the Facebook group. I have chosen to continue to preside at funerals during this time. I've presided at about 5 - 3 or 4 of which were COVID funerals. The local funeral home is meticulous about following all the health guidelines and a couple of the services have been graveside only. I write sermons, prepare liturgies, and attend a weekly Zoom meeting of our "Steering Committee" (the group leading us through this time) as well as a weekly Zoom meeting with my colleague to discuss pastoral and other issues. I think I'm probably putting in as many hours (maybe even a few more) than I did before. The congregation is relatively healthy financially. The 75% wage subsidy from the federal government has been a big help and we haven't had to hit our reserves in any big way yet, nor have we had to make any staffing changes. All things considered with the wage subsidy extended to August I think we could probably sustain the model until well into the fall if we had to without major changes. We've taken advantage of having no renters to have our contract custodian do a very thorough deep cleaning of the whole building. The church secretary monitors the church office from her home - handling phone calls, emails and preparing a worship bulletin to post every week. Givings are down but we still have a good chunk coming in through PAR every month and many people have asked about e-transfers which have now been set up. Some also mail their offerings to the church and our secretary also makes a daily drive over to check mail. Our outreach programs are largely shut down and connecting with the community around us is challenging. The biggest differences for me are (1) getting adjusted to preaching and leading worship in front of an empty sanctuary; (2) working from home; and (3) getting adjusted to a new routine where I have Saturday and Sunday off. For the first month or so I found the loss of my normal routine the biggest thing and I was literally exhausted every day mostly because of that I think. As I've adapted to a new routine I actually feel physically better now even while some of my colleagues report that they're getting more tired. We each handle stress and change differently. I used to be in the church (or at least in the community) from Tuesday to Thursday (and Sunday or other days as needed) and I find I miss the commute. It's an hour each way but that hour is a great way to get focussed on the way down and to unwind on the way back. I said to my wife recently that this reminded me of our time in Newfoundland (my first charge after ordination) when the church office was in the manse we lived in and it was sometimes hard to differentiate between church time and home time.
 
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Pinga

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Revsdd posted when i was posting, so editing for clarity.

@Mrs.Anteater I cannot speak for other churches, but that is definitely not the case in our church.

Visitation team has been actively engaging in contacting everyone.
Youth ministry has moved normal contacts into onlinecongregants are phoning each other and supportive folks
Minister is working on contacting everyone at least once.
We have lots of good news stories being shared by recipients of support
 

Pinga

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Interesting, @revsdd . We were told our custodian could not be in the building for anything but emergency items (ie if a pipe broke).
 

revsdd

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Since we are allowed to have people in the church to record, making sure that the building is clean and "safe" is acceptable according to what we were told. She also cleans other churches in the area. My understanding is that the normal business of the office can't continue.
 

Mendalla

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Anyone else been following the saga of the drive-in church? Basically Aylmer Church of God, just outside London, was holding services in their parking lot with the people sitting in their cars, windows closed, listening to the service on their radios. The police objected, issued warnings, and did pass the information to the Crown. Charges never were laid and we heard yesterday that the province amended the orders to allow drive-in services with conditions (e.g. occupants of each car must be from same household, 2m between cars, officiants must social distance and only 5 allowed, no access to building save officiants).

The original story from the end of April (but it has been going on every weekend since)


The resolution:


Apparently, some other provinces allowed drive-in services all along. Anyone been to one or know of ones in your area?
 

Pinga

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Since we are allowed to have people in the church to record, making sure that the building is clean and "safe" is acceptable according to what we were told. She also cleans other churches in the area. My understanding is that the normal business of the office can't continue.
Interesting, we were told the exact opposite. Sigh. Any chance you can point me to a government or uccan site with that information?
Note: I am also thankful for the 75%. We didn't qualify for it in March, but, will in April. Helped us keep staff on. They also consumed their bank time, which helped.
 

Carolla

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I don't honestly understand the concept of "drive in church". Seems environmentally irresponsible in a way, to get in the car & drive somewhere just to listen to the radio. Is it the need of such ministers 'to be seen'? I can't see the rationale for ticketing tho - if people are not leaving their vehicles.
 

Pinga

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As we are having live services, the rhythm of the church week is fairly normal. There is a little bit required earlier due to preparing communications for home delivery.

We do see less engagement than in physical. Figuring that out, but, have decent engagement. I am aware that some of the folks who routinely come to church, come due to volunteer roles: greeters, counters, coffee, music, sound, band,church school, announcments, heading out for lunch after and so on. In a way it is interesting, as those that are coming are coming as they wish to be there, not because they are signed up to be there.

Waves of exhaustion hit me periodically.
There are the multiple circles / scopes of the community which include such things as differences in awareness of risk, acceptance of risk, approach to risk, knowledge of COVID (? who really knows it), trust in government, approaches to asking for help, approaches in dealing with stress, financial understanding, technology
 

revsdd

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Interesting, we were told the exact opposite. Sigh. Any chance you can point me to a government or uccan site with that information?
Note: I am also thankful for the 75%. We didn't qualify for it in March, but, will in April. Helped us keep staff on. They also consumed their bank time, which helped.
One of the members of our Steering Committee reported that he had spoken to someone at public health and been told that since we were allowed to gather five people together in the building to record worship then we would also have a responsibility to ensure that the building was clean for them, in the same way that any workplace remaining open has to be cleaned. I'll confess that we simply took that as an ok to have the contract custodian continuing to clean. I don't have anything specific in writing beyond that reported conversation. It may have to do with how different officials in different Regions are defining what an "essential" (or at least allowed) workplace is.
 

revsdd

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I don't honestly understand the concept of "drive in church". Seems environmentally irresponsible in a way, to get in the car & drive somewhere just to listen to the radio. Is it the need of such ministers 'to be seen'? I can't see the rationale for ticketing tho - if people are not leaving their vehicles.
Nor do I. It does not, to me, sound at all like an enjoyable experience. And then there's the problem of people wanting to have heat on if it's a cold morning or A/C on if it's a hot morning. So you could have dozens of cars guzzling gas and spewing emissions. Like you, though, I also can't see how it poses any health risk as far as COVID is concerned and I can't see how any social distancing regulations are being broken.
 

Mendalla

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Like you, though, I also can't see how it poses any health risk as far as COVID is concerned and I can't see how any social distancing regulations are being broken.

Seemed to me that it was more or less the police being rather overzealous and literal in their application of the emergency orders. The fact that an amendment to the orders was what stopped the whole thing seems to bear that out.
 

revsdd

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Tonight we just finished celebrating Holy Communion via Zoom with about 20 church families from Pickering Village United Church. It's the first time we've tried it, the first time we've had Communion since February and the first time some of us have seen each other in more than three months. It was a good experience. It did convince me that we made the right decision back in March to record our regular services on Fridays and post them on our website on Sunday mornings. There were enough technical glitches (minor but real) that I realized how much I appreciate the smoother recorded services. The advantage, of course, was the chance to socialize afterward.
 

Mendalla

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There were enough technical glitches (minor but real) that I realized how much I appreciate the smoother recorded services.

Based on my growing body of experience with Teams meetings (similar enough to Zoom meetings to compare), I agree. When you need interaction, conferencing products are great, but they are rife with potential for distractions and difficulties when you are presenting to a large group. We had an all-employee town hall a couple weeks ago (we have around 300 employees and almost 200 attended) on Teams and it went mostly well but you kept having people go off mute or turn their video on. Also, the lead presenter, our GM, got bumped offline briefly.
 

Pinga

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We have had wonderful live services done through gotowebinar and gotomeetings for bible and social.

Like anything, it depends what is important to you.

There is a sense of saying hi, check-in in, being engaged which is important to this community.

Glitches occurred in first few weeks, but dang the team has gotten good, including multiple people who can run controls

Oh, and have had communion twice
 

Mrs.Anteater

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We are going to meet in person next Sunday. With RSVP, but it will be unlikely to be more than 10 people, so we are within the NS regulations. Zoom will also be an option at the same time.
 

BetteTheRed

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One of the features of a meaningful service to me is that I am moved to tears,

Even virtually, this is very moving, A very happy Pride Sunday to all.

 

jimkenney12

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Our online services were and are all pre-recorded in pieces, edited, and assembled into a finished video. Our internet in Deep River is so unreliable that we did not dare try a live on the net service. We had our first service in the sanctuary yesterday with nearly 30 people present with many precautions taken including no singing. We did sing O Canada outside once we were all spread out. Our first online communion service was at the end of May or first Sunday in June. Our next one will be July 12. Two United Church congregations will be using the link to our on-line services for their on-line services for July. While many people are missing the physical interaction of church events and worship, the feedback for our online services has been completely positive, including at least one person who did not know where Deep River is. We provide the link to our You Tube services through our Facebook page, our website, and our weekly electronic mail out. We have had Zoom faith study groups and our Search Committee had its first 3 or 4 meetings by Zoom. As we get ready to send out a survey, we have been meeting in person at the church with care to follow all the precautions. There have been no active cases within at least 50 km of Deep River for at least a month.
 

Carolla

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One of the features of a meaningful service to me is that I am moved to tears,

Even virtually, this is very moving, A very happy Pride Sunday to all.

Thanks for that Bette - listened in this evening.
 

revsdd

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Our online services were and are all pre-recorded in pieces, edited, and assembled into a finished video. Our internet in Deep River is so unreliable that we did not dare try a live on the net service. We had our first service in the sanctuary yesterday with nearly 30 people present with many precautions taken including no singing. We did sing O Canada outside once we were all spread out. Our first online communion service was at the end of May or first Sunday in June. Our next one will be July 12. Two United Church congregations will be using the link to our on-line services for their on-line services for July. While many people are missing the physical interaction of church events and worship, the feedback for our online services has been completely positive, including at least one person who did not know where Deep River is. We provide the link to our You Tube services through our Facebook page, our website, and our weekly electronic mail out. We have had Zoom faith study groups and our Search Committee had its first 3 or 4 meetings by Zoom. As we get ready to send out a survey, we have been meeting in person at the church with care to follow all the precautions. There have been no active cases within at least 50 km of Deep River for at least a month.

We won't be back in the sanctuary until September 13 at the earliest. I assume that the recommendations for congregational singing will remain (although there are conflicting studies on the issue, the dominant opinion still seems to be no singing) although we'll probably seek out additional guidance re: solos, or people singing at a distance from the congregation. A couple of people have wondered about singing through masks. I'd be curious to know how your service without singing was received? I think that will be an issue here. PVUC has always been very proud of its music program.

I spoke with my daughter's music teacher at her high school a couple of weeks ago. She said that she fully expects that there will be school bands next year (perhaps not in September, but at some point during the school year) because the studies she's seeing through the Board, etc. are suggesting that instrumental music is not the concern that some originally thought it was. She said there are mixed studies about singing although she thinks there's a 50-50 chance the Board will approve school choirs at some point in the next school year. I did see a British study that seems to contradict the currently dominant position about singing and says that with appropriate social distancing singing is a lot safer than originally thought. (They pointed out that the famous case in Washington State where a choir practice resulted in dozens of infections that's often cited happened in early March before social distancing was a thing, implication being that if people are spread out the risk is significantly lessened.) That all presumes, of course, that schools re-open and that there's no second wave to shut them down again.

I think the most we can say with certainty as churches take tentative steps toward re-starting public, live worship is that things are continuing to change, and it won't be the same worship as we were enjoying back in March. Which offers both multiple challenges and multiple opporutnities.
 
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