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Not closed, but deployed

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Re-thinking the mission of the congregation during public isolation

 Have you taken the time to re-think what “church” means during this time of a public isolation?

If church is not meeting on Sunday mornings, then what is church? Furthermore, what is the mission of the congregation?

Our mission statement reads:

“Clairemont Lutheran Church/Iglesia Luterana Clairemont is a community of faith united in Word and Sacrament, building faith by inviting, welcoming, forgiving, accepting, helping, and praying for all of God’s people.”

How has the congregation lived up to this mission?

Despite the ban on large public gatherings, we have continued to offer the Word online on Sunday mornings and we hope that your life groups have found ways to keep connected as well. We have also continued to offer Drive-Thru communion as a way to keep our community in Christ connected to the sacrament. We have also continued our food distribution ministries to serve our neighbors.

But what about building faith? How are we doing that now, and how will we do this going forward? We can do this by inviting others to view our online worship by sharing the videos over Social Media. We can call others and pray with them. We can offer a sign of God’s peace to our neighbors and to those we may see at the grocery or drug store. We can help a neighbor who is having difficulty during this time. These are just some of the ways we can be inviting, welcoming, helping and praying.

For years Christian congregations have faced declining attendance and participation. Some have permanently closed their doors. One reason is that society has changed. Church is no longer the place to celebrate and mark life passages. People stopped coming to the church campus.

Now that most people aren’t going anywhere, we have an opportunity to re-think our mission outside of being a physical location in a neighborhood. We can instead think of it this way:

The church is not closed, it’s deployed.

I invite you to prayerfully consider how you can play an active role in the deployed church of Christ, both now and well into the future.

Re-thinking church during times of public isolation

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As we watch the news and we talk with people over the phone and online and hear of the struggles facing many in our communities during this public health emergency, we find ourselves in a world of uncertainty. And yet, our hope is in name of the LORD.

The first verse of Psalm 46 provides a sense of comfort: “God is our refuge and strength.” Despite what is going on around us, and despite not being able to gather as a community during this time, we have before us an opportunity for continued
re-examination of our personal relationship with Christ. But, we
also have the time to re-think what it means to be the church of Christ and the mission we’re called to.

For many of us, attending Sunday morning and the occasional midweek worship has been a part of our identity as Christians. But now the senior majority in our congregation is forced to stay
home and your church staff and volunteers are attempting to do
something that hasn’t been done before in our post-modern era:
have church without face-to-face gatherings.

We’ve noted our cancellations on our digital sign, but we’ve also posted some advice, including telling folks to wash their hands and to “keep calm and trust Jesus.”

When the decision was made to close the church campus to public gatherings, our staff, council members and some volunteers called our list of members. Through this we discovered some disconnected phone numbers and we spoke with some people who haven’t attended worship in quite a while, for one reason or another. For some of those people, it could have been the first time the church reached out to them in such a
personal way.

We have been live streaming for two years with our temporary camera and computer equipment, so we are slightly ahead of the
curve compared to most congregations when it comes to video ministry. But to do a completely online worship, having to think
about putting words on the screen and making digital bulletins available was indeed a big step. We also ran into some challenges with audio signal interference. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of temporary equipment; some Sundays it works great, others not so much. After all, our sanctuary is not equipped with a state-of-the art audio/visual system, so we work with what we have
and the limitations of that equipment and our facilities and with the capabilities of our staff and volunteers. Despite our troubles, we did receive feedback from folks saying they appreciated everything we were trying to do to keep our church family connected.

Another way we as a congregation were able to stay connected during this difficult time was to offer drive-thru communion. We were happy people participated. It was a meaningful way that we could still, in that brief moment, be community in Christ. 

Rest assured, the church will still be here after this public health situation is under control. Church is not just a place we go on
Sunday mornings. The church is the people, the community in Christ. Church is something we are and something we do. So if church isn’t just meeting on Sunday, what is church? Perhaps it’s time to re-think what church means for us, so that when we are gathered again physically we can better understand our mission and presence in the community.